Cape Town - Surely, that should be it... If Safa doesn’t realise that Bafana Bafana are on the road to nowhere under coach Shakes Mashaba, then it probably never will. The signs have been there for quite a while, but ignorance, as they say, is bliss.
But after the SA national football team’s failure to qualify for Afcon 2017, the rumblings of discontent are, finally, making its way to the surface. Last Friday in Nelspruit, Mashaba’s Bafana were, again, bitterly disappointing and thoroughly mediocre in a 1-1 draw with Mauritania, who played the last quarter of the game with 10 men.
Add to that Bafana’s timid capitulation at Afcon 2015 in Equatorial Guinea last year, together with the general malaise that has characterised the squad, and it’s unquestionable that something has simply got to give.
With the qualifying programme for the 2018 World Cup in Russia looming, what will Safa do? Stick with Mashaba, surely not?
And, judging from Safa president Danny Jordaan’s response after the Mauritania debacle, perhaps the writing is on the wall.
“I think it’s a disappointing performance, we have to say that straight up, said Jordaan. “This must be the end of the journey, not the beginning, because this cannot lead us into the 2018 World Cup campaign, where we will play the giants of the African continent (Burkina Faso, Senegal and Cape Verde are in Bafana’s group).
“We cannot talk about the same things all the time.”
Mashaba has long been Bafana’s biggest liability. It’s important to remember that coaching is about action, not the title. Coaches inspire players - and we haven’t seen too much of this from Mashaba. In fact, a classic case that he sees the job as a title, that it is always more about him than the team, is his constant lecturing of critics, and his moaning and ranting about everything, instead of just getting on with his actual job.
In any football team, the players have to be able to buy into the coach’s philosophy or vision. They have to feel that they are part of something great. With Mashaba in charge, the players are only used as a stick with which to beat media criticism. It’s childish and unprofessional, to say the least.
Good coaches energise those around them. They motivate and rouse players to greater heights. They take a squad and drag them to be better than what they actually thought they could be. They have a plan, they innovate, they organise, they improvise. They recognise talent, and are not influenced by race, agents or other agendas. They touch lives, they make a difference. Have we seen any of this from Mashaba?
Let’s highlight a few recent successful examples:
Muhsin Ertugral’s extraordinary work at Mpumalanga Black Aces, in taking a team of no-hopers to believe in themselves, and inspiring them to fourth on the PSL standings;
Stuart Baxter’s intelligent overhaul of Kaizer Chiefs during his stellar spell at the Soweto side, in changing their game, shaping their fantastic transitional style and improving their defensive organisation;
Pitso Mosimane, who transformed Mamelodi Sundowns from under-achievers to champions;
the rapidly-rising nous of Dan Malesela, a coach who has a set way he wants his teams to play, with regard to quick-passing and entertainment, and he never veers from his objective;
Gavin Hunt, what more is there to say. His achievements speak for themselves;
Roger de Sa - everybody raves about Rivaldo Coetzee’s meteoric rise in the game, but what about the coach who appreciated the Ajax Cape Town youngster’s precocious ability and handed him a PSL debut at the age of 17? (and look where the kid is now);
Then there’s Eric Tinkler, who grabbed a hastily-assembled Cape Town City squad by the scruff of the neck and crafted them into a cohesive unit in a short space of time.
This is what coaches do.
What has Mashaba brought to Bafana?
Basketball coach Bob Nelson once remarked that “you get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within”.
Based on what we’ve seen from Bafana under the current coach, there hasn’t even been a smoulder inside the players.
It’s time for a change. It doesn’t matter who, but surely, in this vast, talent-laden and football-mad country of ours, we’ve got to have someone better than Mashaba.