Johannesburg - Shakes Mashaba began his job as the new Bafana Bafana coach with an apology to his boss, but Danny Jordaan will know only too well he has not appointed a sycophantic “yes man”.
“I’m very sorry Mr President,” Mashaba said to Jordaan after having asked the Safa chief honcho who he was in a phone call.
Currently in west Africa with the national Under-20 side, coach Mashaba was rung by Safa chief executive Dennis Mumble so he could give a telephonic reaction to returning to the post he held from 2002 to 2004. But when Mumble gave the phone to Jordaan, Shakes responded: “Hallo, I’m speaking to?”
Mashaba’s apology, upon hearing that it was Jordaan, was swift and sincere, just like his promise that “we won’t disappoint our people and we will do our best to do the country proud”.
Chosen by the Safa national executive committee ahead of the highly punted Carlos Queiroz with whom he was recommended by the Safa technical committee, Mashaba is renowned for being his own man, a trait that actually cost him the selfsame job last time around.
Yet in bringing him back into the job, Safa have acknowledged the man’s ability to produce results at all levels – his penchant for not kow-towing to power notwithstanding.
Jordaan confirmed this: “He has a proven record, is a hard worker and he fulfilled all requirements we were looking for to drive our senior national team back to where we all believe they belong – at the top.”
Mashaba has previously qualified Bafana for the Africa Cup of Nations (2004) but lost his job after declining to choose the squad his bosses wanted for a high-profile friendly against England.
Before his first full-time tenure at Bafana, he held the position in a number of caretaker capacity roles and did very well. In his 19 matches, he never lost an official match, his two defeats coming in a minor, friendly tournament.
He took the national Under-20 side to the World Youth Championships in 1997 after leading them to a runners-up position at the African tournament. He remains the only coach to have taken South Africa to the Olympics (Sydney 2000) soccer tournament for Under-23 sides.
“I’m thrilled with the honour you bestowed on me,” Mashaba said.
“I’ll pull out all stops to ensure our people feel part of the national team and the only way is to bring good results.”
While he will continue coaching the Under-20s until after the African Youth Championship qualifying tie with Cameroon, Mashaba faces a tough schedule of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers with back-to-back clashes against Sudan and Nigeria in the first week of September.
Yet, unlike previous coaches, Safa have decided to look long term and are not hardbent on qualifying for next year’s continental tournament in Morocco but have their eyes set on seeing Bafana making it to the 2018 World Cup in Russia as part of the association’s Vision 2022 programme.
They seem to have chosen just the right man for the task!