Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter and new assistant coach Quinton Fortune look on during a training session. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter and new assistant coach Quinton Fortune look on during a training session. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix
Quinton Fortune in action for Manchester United in Rio de Janeiro in 2000. Photo: Reuters
Quinton Fortune in action for Manchester United in Rio de Janeiro in 2000. Photo: Reuters

JOHANNESBURG - Let me be upfront, the idea of Quinton Fortune sitting in the Bafana Bafana dugout as coach Stuart Baxter’s assistant rubs me up the wrong way.

I have always known the former Manchester United and Atletico Madrid player to be a rebel of note, snubbing national team call-ups at will. You mention Fortune to me and I have vivid memories of ex-Bafana coaches and team managers grovelling for the superstar to show up for a crucial Africa Cup of Nations or World Cup qualifier.

Heck, those guys had their work cut out whenever an overzealous national team coach decided to just make their lives miserable by issuing a call-up letter to Mr Fortune, who, we were told, could not risk sliding down the perking order at his club by honouring the selection.

This week Safa chief executive Dennis Mumble told this columnist that it was never Fortune’s intentions to give Bafana the cold-shoulder. Really? “We resolved those issues with Quinton a while ago,” Mumble said.

“It was getting very difficult for him and we need to understand how hard it was for our players at the time. When it was difficult for Quinton, it was equally difficult for the players in Turkey because of the way their contracts were structured. 

"The truth is, when they got released from their teams to report for the national team they lost a lot of money. So we had to understand what was happening, but we know it was not ideal that they picked and chose the kind of matches they wanted to be involved in.”

I was not convinced.

There’s a long list of players who were based in Europe who didn’t seem to have issues with telling their clubs they wanted to represent their country. Bradley Carnell, Aaron Mokoena, the late Jacob Lekgetho, MacBeth Sibaya, Lucas Radebe and Steven Pienaar were all Fortune’s teammates and seldom showed Safa the middle finger.

It seems Fortune took pleasure in telling the association to go fly a kite, but he was suddenly a patriot once again closer to the World Cup. He was one of 23 names in coach Jomo Sono’s 2002 World Cup squad in Korea and Japan, but getting him to play the qualifiers was often a headache.

Stuart Baxter and his employers have not read the nation’s mood on this one (see Twitter).

Mumble also claimed there were several other candidates for the Bafana assistant coach's job, but wouldn’t disclose them as some of them are currently under contract, he said.

But we all know it is just now about agreeing on the rands and cents before Fortune signs on the dotted line. If you think there was a social media meltdown when Safa first confirmed that the 40-year-old had arrived in South Africa to discuss a possible role, wait until it’s official.

He might very well add value to the Bafana technical team, but it will be a hard sell to claim Fortune can be a role model for the current crop of players.

What example has he set? That you can pull down your pants and let one rip in front of the Safa hierarchy and more than a decade later you get to be the senior men’s national team’s assistant coach. Nice life problems.

The Star

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