It is generally agreed that Shakes Mashaba’s decision to revamp the country’s senior national side is the best thing that could ever happen to Bafana Bafana.
The question is whether he has selected the right men to assist him in leading South Africa to Russia 2018.
For years, many a coaches given the task of leading the squad have stuck with under-achieving, ‘big name’ players, the result being that our country became synonymous with failure. Enter Bra Shakes and all that has changed, Bafana getting an injection of youthful talent eager to prove itself to the world.
And if anyone can turn unknown lads from villages and townships across the width and breadth of South Africa into renowned football stars, it is Mashaba. So do not be surprised when, in a few years’ time, players like Dumisani Msibi, Ayabulela Magqwaka and Bonginkosi Ntuli are big names countrywide. After all, it was he who helped turn unknowns such as Wayne Roberts, Matthew Booth, Benni McCarthy, Daniel Matsau and Patrick Mbuthu into household stars.
One thing Shakes is excellent at is instilling a sense of self-confidence into players. Like José Mourinho does, Mashaba is a master at making players feel they are the best there is out there. He’s what in football parlance is called ‘a players’ coach’. Ask any of his ‘products’, and they’ll all tell you Mashaba was the one coach they’d break a leg for.
This incredible ability to win over players is what helped Mashaba lead the national Under-20 class of 1997 to second spot the CAF Youth Championships to qualify for the World Cup at that level. That he later took the Under-23s to the Olympics was no surprise.
In both those times, Mashaba had surrounded himself with technically sound men – Thabo Dladla and Kenny Ndlazi. Even when he coached Bafana previously, he worked with the late Styles Phumo who was a member of the CAF technical committee.
So while Mashaba won the players over with his man-management abilities and got them to believe they are better than the best in the world with his inspirational acumen, his assistants chipped in with the means to use the team’s abilities to good effect on the field.
Does he have those kind of people around him now, one wonders? Thabo Senong comes highly recommended as a great future prospect while Owen da Gama certainly believes he is a technically sound man, and no doubt Mashaba as well as the technical committee that appointed him share this view.
I have my reservations. But then again it is Bra Shakes’ head that is on the block.
Here’s to hoping his two lieutenants compliment him and help him shine as bright as he always has whenever he’s coached out national teams. - The Star