The worst kept secret down the Safa House corridors was that Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba has always been an unwelcome guest. And what do you do you with an unwanted visitor in your home? You simply wait for them to overstep the mark and then politely let them know that you’d like to have some space.
All indications are Mashaba will be shown the door tomorrow when he faces a Safa disciplinary hearing after he was charged with misconduct, insubordination and bringing the association into disrepute following his now infamous tirade in Polokwane two weeks ago.
But how will his employers avoid repeating the same mistake given that Mashaba’s appointment as national team coach in July 2014, had split the Safa hierarchy down the middle? The coach often let rip at press conferences, reminding the press that he was not a “cheap option” and was highly qualified for the job as Bafana’s “most successful” coach as evidenced by his win ratio over several stints.
There are two contributing factors to why Mashaba held on to this plush gig, one of them being the fact that he helped Bafana qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations barely six months into the job.
The other is that when he lost the plot all of a sudden, failing to qualify for next year’s edition of the continental competition, Safa president Danny Jordaan was too occupied as mayor of PE to press the eject button, and by the time he contemplated firing Mashaba, the 2018 World Cup qualifiers were nigh.
If it wasn’t for the Polokwane debacle, where Mashaba had been hailed as a hero after Bafana’s 2-1 win over Senegal in a crunch World Cup qualifier, the coach would still be safe and there would be no talk of a replacement. A couple of names have been thrown about - Milutin Micho’ Sredojevic (currently coach of Uganda), Ruud Krol (unattached), Pitso Mosimane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Roger de Sa (unattached) and Eric Tinkler (Cape Town City) - and it’s important for Safa to be in unison on who should take over.
The criteria should be clear: You can’t have a guy who will arrive here and have no clue what it takes to prepare a national team for a crucial qualifier in Africa. He might have been a last resort if rumours that Safa were too broke to afford an international coach are true, but Mashaba was no Johnny-come-lately. Sure, he wasn’t the best the association could do, even with the shoe-string budget, but he wasn’t the worst either.
Although Bafana aren’t scheduled for a qualifier until August next year, there will be a sense of urgency in finding a suitable candidate in an effort to give the new coach enough time to get used to the scene.
Part of the reason why Safa felt they could push Mashaba out now was because of the length of Bafana’s inactivity. But a hasty appointment will only bring more misery. There will be plenty of discussions: Should the coach be local or foreign, and what’s his track record on the continent?
As CVs flood Nasrec, Safa mustn't shoot themselves in the foot.