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Da Gama's 'Bafana dream job' flawed strategy

Bafana
JOHANNESBURG - Owen da Gama had made a remarkable recovery from obscurity when axed Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba made him his national team assistant in August 2014.

The perfect job for a man who had some disturbing allegations levelled against him two years earlier at Premier Soccer League (PSL) club Platinum Stars.

He could have enough of a say in advising someone with one of the toughest jobs in South African football without really being blamed if anything goes wrong.

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Bafana Bafana interim coach Owen da Gama is unsure why he isn't being considered for a permanent post. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

The level of trust between Da Gama and Safa even extended beyond Mashaba’s tenure, “Rubber Doll” being asked to be stand-in coach in Bafana’s three recent friendly internationals following Mashaba’s suspension in November and eventual sacking a month later.

But Da Gama went and ruined it all a week ago by declaring his interest for the vacant national team job. Clouded by the 3-1 win over Guinea-Bissau in the friendly played at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium and the goalless draw against Angola in East London last month, No2 suddenly had ambitions to be elevated.

“I think it is any coach’s dream, and the response from the players has been fantastic,” he said after Bafana’s rather poor showing against lowly Angola.

“Whatever happens will happen, but I think I am very capable and have proved it beyond doubt. I hear about people that are qualified to be here and I am not. I don’t understand that, and maybe I should try to understand it a little bit more. With over 50 games with Bafana and watching over 200 games in the country, I think I know and have an idea of what is happening in the national set-up. 

I have coached for over 11 years in the PSL, including being at a big club like Orlando Pirates. I am not saying I am the right man, but I certainly believe I understand South African football very well and have the experience.”

The problem here is that Da Gama’s name has hardly come up in the ever-changing shortlist of ideal candidates put together by the search committee. He would have been wise to stay in his lane and offer support to whoever comes in as Mashaba’s successor. 

It is unlikely Safa would have forced Da Gama out, considering that the delay in appointing a coach means the new man will need as much help as he can get to prepare Bafana for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away to Nigeria in June.

At this rate there are even suggestions that Da Gama could still be interim coach as the man being courted, Stuart Baxter, might only be available on July 1.

But will the new coach want to work with someone who publicly tried to advertise himself as the best possible replacement for Mashaba? It’s imperative to surround yourself with people you can trust - and there is no way Baxter, or any one for that matter, would have faith in Da Gama being their right-hand man.

Asked why he didn’t even think to give Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs a role in his backroom staff when he was appointed manager, José Mourinho was clear. “Ryan wanted the main job. My job,” he said.

The Star

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