Exactly a year ago, we were right here. Exactly a year ago we had played Mauritania, and we were set to play the Nelson Mandela Challenge four days later at the very same Orlando Stadium, and we were as disappointed with the result of the previous result against the same team as we are today. It was exactly a year ago that coach Shakes Mashaba fell out with the media. First, because he called one of the journalists who asked whether he did his homework on Mauritania “a small boy”, and secondly because he brought his family members into the post-match press conference at Orlando and sat there to play victim while they imagined they had the power to ask the media questions.
Photo credit: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
My point, you ask? We are exactly where we were then but we did not make the changes we want to make now. We waited a whole year to make the necessary changes in the national team, although we knew then that things had gone pear-shaped already. Rumour has it that Mashaba could be on his way out after the Mandela match. Why then did our brainstrust, with all their wisdom wait until now, when we have a month to go to the World cup qualifiers to even consider whether to sack the coach or not? Since we like to “build” so much, which coach is going to build a winning team in a month?
Every time you ask SAFA president Danny Jordaan about this, he says: ‘We will await the report at the end of the qualifiers to make a decision.’ Number one, this sounds to me like a president who is out of touch with our football and has been too busy losing elections in Nelson Mandela Bay to notice that we have a crisis. Two, what report? We have watched the games. We have seen that we have lost/drawn more games than we have won. We know that in July 2014 when Shakes was appointed he was mandated to qualify for AFCON 2017. We know that he has failed. What other report do we need?
Photo credit: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix
We had yet another opportunity to fire the coach if we really were serious about things in March. We went to Cameroon to find a toothless team that we should have beaten, but we failed. The coach left out key players like Keagan Dolly for such a crucial match and told us he needs to go to Brazil to play a friendly match in preparation for the Olympic Games. Really!? Really, Coach?
We did nothing about this. We came back home to play the same team and failed to beat them yet again. Still there was nothing, despite even a mathematical impossibility that we could qualify. Then it was The Gambia. We beat them 4-0. But as we normally do, we shone when it did not matter. And now we find ourselves here. Exactly where we were a year ago. Complaining about the same things we did last year.
Remember the central American tour in between all that? Games against Costa Rica and Honduras that seemed to have been good for the team? That is the only logical thing that could have saved Mashaba’s job then because straight after that he engineered the team’s passage to the final phase of the World Cup qualifiers after impressive displays against Angola. That was supposed to be the turnaround. But again we relapsed into our ever deepening downward spiral.
Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI
I am not saying Mashaba should not be fired. I am saying he could have been fired long ago if we wanted to. Getting rid of him now cannot be good for anyone. Or at least from my point of view. We get someone new in and we might as well accept now that like in 2014, we will be picking teams to support at the Russia 2018 showpiece. We will be forced to accept and afford the new coach the same time we afforded Shakes, before him Gordon Igesund, before him Pitso Mosimane, and Carlos Parreira, and Joel Santana, and Parreira again. And, and, and …
All of whom told us: ‘We are building.’ To be honest, right now we might as well stay with the coach and hope and pray something gives. If it does, thank God. If it does not, oh well …
The truth is that SAFA’s lack of vision and proactivity has let us down. The wheels of change we should anticipate are not in the technical team. We should look forward to the day we have change of leadership. In closing, I have said this before and I shall say it again. The problem in SA football is that the Premier Soccer League has more power than the FA. Sometimes one wonders which one of the two is a FIFA member.