THE announcement of the dates for the Fifa World Cup qualifiers last week would normally bring about great excitement for any football fan, but it had the opposite effect on me.
As a proud South African, I will never forget the 2010 tournament in this country. I can still hear the slogan ‘Feel it, it is here!’, and how the crowds streamed through the Fan Walks to the Cape Town Stadium. And of course, Siphiwe Tshabalala’s thunderbolt against Mexico …
But here we sit, Mzansi, in sak en as (sackcloth and ashes) as they say, after Bafana Bafana failed to even qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
So, to even contemplate another qualifying campaign is tough for a South African fan. Bafana have now missed out on four out of seven Afcon tournaments since 2010, with 2013 (in SA), 2015 (in Equatorial Guinea) and 2019 in Egypt the exceptions – they actually beat the hosts to qualify for the quarter-finals in 2019.
Their World Cup record is even worse. Apart from 2010 as hosts, Bafana have only made it through qualifying twice, for the 1998 and 2002 events.
Clive Barker was in charge when Phil Masinga rifled home that goal against Congo, but ‘The Dog’ was soon pressurised to resign after a difficult Confederations Cup for eccentric Frenchman Philippe Troussier (with Jomo Sono as caretaker coach taking the team to the 1998 Afcon final), and it ended in disaster at France ’98.
Carlos Queiroz took over in 2000 from Trott Moloto and steered Bafana through qualifying for the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea, but months before the event, an apparent fall-out with Safa after the Afcon – where South Africa lost in the quarter-finals – saw the Portuguese mentor on his way.
Sono stepped in again in a caretaker capacity for the World Cup, where SA had a win, loss and a draw.
There have been rumours in the last week that Queiroz could be on his way back to Johannesburg for a second stint at Bafana following Molefi Ntseki’s sacking. But whoever Safa appoint, will they get it right?
There were question marks over Ntseki from the start due to his lack of exposure at the level of club football.
He was primarily given the job after guiding the SA Under-17 side to their World Cup, but the fact that big local candidates such as Gavin Hunt and Benni McCarthy were overlooked meant that Ntseki was put under enormous pressure immediately. He was rightly let go after Bafana missed out on Afcon qualification.
Pitso Mosimane has had enormous success on the African continent with Mamelodi Sundowns and now Al Ahly, and should be considered once more, while Herve Renard’s name has also popped up.
But I think the time has come to secure the best possible coaching team – and not just one stand-out coach – if Safa are serious about getting Bafana to Qatar 2022, with the qualifiers starting on the first weekend in June.
How about Queiroz or Renard, Mosimane, Hunt and McCarthy? And no expense should be spared in getting the best coach in place …