Of all the Bafana Bafana coaches who’ve been sacked or forced to leave the job since readmission, Carlos Queiroz can easily be considered the most unfortunate.
He fell out of favour with the SA Football Association’s hierarchy in the aftermath of the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations, where Bafana lost to hosts Mali in the quarter-finals.
Then it was deemed a gross under-achievement to bow out at that stage, although such are the depths that South Africa are plumbing these days that some celebrated when we lost to Mali on penalties at the same stage last year.
Upon his return from Bamako, Queiroz found that public sentiment had changed and his popularity had plummeted. There were a few months to go to the World Cup in Korea/Japan and the local footballing public could not trust a man who had failed to lead Bafana to the semi-finals of the Cup of Nations when it had been routine in the previous editions of 1996, 1998 and 2000.
As a result, Queiroz’s employment conditions, as he put it, were changed and his power to select the team completely eroded with the arrival of Jomo Sono as “technical director”.
He found the situation unbearable and requested to be paid out the remainder of his contract. Thus, he could not lead Bafana at World Cup 2002.
In two years of qualifying, Bafana had won five of the six matches, their 1-1 draw with Burkina Faso spoiling what would otherwise have been a perfect record.
Admittedly though, Bafana were in a relatively winnable group – which included the Burkinabe, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Guinea, who were later expelled by Fifa from qualifying due to government interference. (Compare that to the group won by Senegal, who had to deal with Morocco, Egypt and Algeria, with Namibia being the whipping boys).
Of course, a decade ago, Bafana had some muscle. They could be seeded to avoid big guns. The situation has changed drastically now to expect Queiroz, the Iran head coach who reportedly has been asked to return to Bafana after this year’s World Cup in Brazil, to work miracles.
If he does return, Queiroz would not be the first coach Safa re-invite to take over. They did the same with Carlos Alberto Parreira just before World Cup 2010, and the result was a humiliating first-round exit.
Recycling coaches will not fix the ailments of local football, and I say this with the utmost recognition that Queiroz didn’t fail – like some dimwits opined this week – as a Bafana coach. If anything he’s one of the more successful to hold that seat, and even now stands out as the last man to lead the country to a World Cup through qualifying.
But a Queiroz second coming could yet end in tears – in the same manner that Parreira blemished his CV in 2010 and left us with the dishonour of being the first World Cup hosts to bow out at the first hurdle.
For starters, Queiroz would not come cheap – Iran apparently pay him $2 million (about R22m) a year. This is the amount that Parreira earned four years ago and with Safa’s coffers running dry, it would be insensible to agree to hire someone at such a high cost.
Safa themselves conceded as much when they sacked Pitso Mosimane, who earned just over R9m a year. At the moment, Gordon Igesund is understood to earn half that.
The worst Bafana coach ever, the dunderheaded Joel Santana, earned a ridiculous R1.4m a month.
Queiroz’s stock has swelled since he left Bafana 12 years ago. He’s held posts at Manchester United as assistant coach, headed Real Madrid and the Portugal national side. He’s now led unfancied Iran to the World Cup and if he does well, he surely would be worth more than $2m a year. Can Safa, deserted by sponsors, afford him?
Or more relevantly, can SA football afford to splash money on another high-profile international coach while the structures meant to unearth talent are in disarray?
If I were Safa, I would go for a local coach, and we do have one in Shakes Mashaba, who, like Queiroz, has a good Bafana record and was forced out of the job for illogical reasons.