Neil Tovey Is The Right Man

When SAFA announced this past Saturday that Neil Tovey was the man to take up the much talked about Technical Director post, the news was met with much jubilation.  I too was part of those who were applauding the Association for this decision.  This position has been the subject of much speculation for just under a year now, with president Danny Jordaan having told us immediately after the appointment of Shakes Mashaba that the next announcement will be that of the TD.

Of course we now know differently.  This process would take 11 months, and during that period, a lot of things happened with Bafana Bafana.  There were the highs, which dare I say prompted some premature celebrations from all of us.

Then there were the lows, during which the very same people who sang Mashaba’s praises months earlier, were asking for his head.  I personally didn’t think Shakes was in the wrong most of the time, just some of his decisions.  His problem is that he started not knowing what to say to the media, and after the COSAFA disaster he said:  ‘… I think my colour is a problem here.’

A while ago when interviewed by Robert Marawa on his radio show, he said that he’s warning the nation against ‘this Technical Director’.  He said that having this person would be to the detriment of all involved.  I disagree completely with the coach.

Of course his disgruntlement stems from the fact that he feels his job would be under threat with another coach lurking somewhere down the corridor.  I understand that because normally this role is misused in football, and when a club is close to firing their coach, they suddenly hire a “Technical Director” who will be sitting somewhere in the stands and weighing heavily on the incumbent’s shoulders.  According to Sports Recruitment International, the primary responsibility of a TD is ‘… to provide national strategic direction for all technical football, elite player pathway and coach education matters.  This involves building on the National Football Curriculum through the next development cycle with the aim of creating a succession plan for players and coaches and development of the national player pathway.’

Hosea 4:6 goes:  ‘My people suffer for their lack of knowledge.’  Had the coach and a lot of people known this, they would understand why we need a TD.  For such a long time there has been a gap between our age group national teams and the senior team.

We have been lamenting the lack of identity in our national structures for years.  We all know that this is what our European and South American counterparts have had over us.  Spain did not win the World Cup for a long time.

They were known as the perennial underachievers.  While the world was becoming impatient with them, something was brewing in their junior teams.  They had Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Pedro Rodriguez, David Villa, Sergio Bosquets, Xabi Alonso etc playing together from a very young age.

This was very helpful when they reached the senior team.  They could almost play what we call side-mirror football.  Knowing exactly who is where at what point.

This is what Neil Tovey has to make sure of.  He will not be going for Shakes Mashaba’s job.  He has to be that bridge between not only the senior team and the junior teams, but also between them and all the clubs in South Africa.

Just the other day we had a situation where players were withdrawn from the national team because of some previous agreement.  This left the coach wanting and in no man’s land.  If we had a TD at that time, the responsibility of solving that problem would have rested squarely on his shoulders.

Of course he would need to liaise with the senior coach on this.  Since Mashaba’s appointment, we have heard a great deal about “Vision 2022”.  It is the mandate of Tovey to make sure that there is harmony in that vision – that the transition of players from the junior ranks is smooth and seamless.

This means he will need to have a data base of who plays where, when, and how.  This is to ensure that the players are not lost through the system.  I remember a long time ago, probably about the year 2000, there was a very talented player by the name of Lebohang Mokwining.  Now the veteran journalists might be the ones who remember him from the under-17s.

This player had the rare talent that is posessed by players like OJ Mabizela.  Today no one knows or remembers him because he was just lost through the system.  This should not happen again.

The 52-years old’s job is to also facilitate the development of coaches in South Africa.  This was made very clear by Dennis Mumble, the SAFA CEO when he said:  ‘The new technical director will oversee and accelerate the coaching of coaches.’  He is tasked with producing thousands of coaches in the country per year.

For me this says the FA knows what they are doing and why they want a TD.   The reason I hail the decision to give Neil the job is that there is just no other person better qualified for it.  When it comes to qualifications, he comes second to none in the country.

He got his UEFA A license with a 90% pass in Henef, Germany which were the best marks since 1998.  He has won the league as both a player and a coach in SA.  He achieved the former in his days in the colours of Durban City and Kaizer Chiefs.

The latter was when he was at the helm of Mamelodi Sundowns along with Argentine Miguel Gramondi.  And yes, he was the man who led that 1996 AFCON-winning team (at the risk of sounding redundant).  These credentials more than merit him for this position.

It is such a blessing that we finally live in a era where the coaches leading the most powerful teams in our country and the national teams, are all South African.  If they can work together and not point fingers at each other, it shouldn’t be long until we reap the rewards of our own seed, and the technical vision of SAFA for Bafana Bafana will be realised.

By the way I would like to be the first person to wish Neil Tovey a very happy birthday for tomorrow, may he see many more years and take our football to greater heights.