Johannesburg – An emotional Shakes Mashaba bid farewell to the South African under-20 team on Wednesday, after arriving back in the country for the first time since his appointment as coach of Bafana Bafana.
Mashaba, who accompanied Amajita on his final tour as coach of the junior national side, had to wipe away the tears as he thanked the SA Football Association (Safa) for their support.
“I’d like to say thanks to all the players that have been backing me all the time,” Mashaba said at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
“My phone is jammed, it can’t even work anymore because of all the congratulation messages.
“I know the whole country has been buzzing since my appointment. We hope not to disappoint them, we will try our best and make sure that we keep them happy.”
Mashaba was confirmed by Safa as the new man in charge of the senior national team on July 26, while out of the country with Amajita on their four-match tour of west Africa.
Mashaba and his team returned a mixed bag of results on tour, drawing twice, against Senegal and Burkina Faso, and losing to Ivory Coast and Mali.
The matches were used as preparation for the under-20’s crucial African Youth Championships first leg qualifier against Cameroon on August 16 in Yaounde.
The second leg would be played in South Africa two weeks after, at a venue yet to be confirmed.
Mashaba said the match against African Youth Championships hosts Senegal, gave the players a taste of what was to come if they qualified for the March showpiece.
“One of our practice matches was down there. It was an exercise worth taking. I’ve never been into such a rigorous exercise. We took this trip to prepare these youngsters.”
Should Amajita qualify for the tournament, they would need to finish in the final four to book a place at the 2015 under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
“I’m sure these boys are ready. It’s only one hurdle that’s left. Everybody cries that we don’t qualify for these tournaments.
“We are on the brink of realising that. But it won’t happen through Safa alone. Everybody has got to come on board.”
A visibly upset Mashaba thanked the members of the under-20 backroom staff and expressed his desire to use his position as Bafana coach to nurture the up-and-coming talent from the under-17 and under-20 ranks.
“Bafana is an end result. It starts on the ground. We’ve got to have history. It starts with these young players. Let’s give them coverage, let’s talk about them and let’s encourage them.”
“It is good when a team comes back with results, but it is bad when people don’t know how we got those results. – Sapa