JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 08: Bafana Coach Shakes Mashaba with Danny Jordaan during the SAFA press conference at SAFA House on August 08, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Duif du Toit/Gallo Images)

Shakes Mashaba is not just a coach for Bafana Bafana. He is the Safa coach, as was indicated on Friday by the association’s CEO Dennis Mumble.

This makes perfect sense. As coach of the senior national team, Mashaba should not focus solely on Bafana Bafana, as has been the case with previous coaches who did not take much of an interest in what the junior national teams were doing.

There’s more to the Bafana job than just attending PSL matches and selecting players for friendly internationals and qualifying matches. It also involves, for instance, monitoring the progress of the junior national teams and identifying promising players to pick for the senior team in future.

Rest assured that as Bafana coach, Mashaba is not going to neglect the junior teams and their coaches. He loves youth football way too much not to take an interest. If you needed any more evidence that this is a man dedicated to making sure all the men’s national sides make steady strides, he’s shown it by committing to take charge of the national Under-20s’ two African Youth Championships qualifiers against Cameroon this month, even though he only has a few weeks to prepare for Bafana’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sudan in Khartoum early next month.

With Mashaba overseeing all national teams, players are not likely to get lost in the system and many of the current players in the Under-17 and Under-20 teams will go on to represent the senior team in future. The experience they gain at junior level is invaluable.

“If you look at the World Cup finalists (Argentina and Germany), players were adding caps to what they earned in the junior national teams. Some of them played for the Under-17s and others for the Under-20s and later got to the senior national team. That is what we need to work on and look at,” Mashaba says. “If you look at most of our players, when they play for Bafana their first cap is at age 25 or 26. What does that mean to the coach? You have to start with the basics at that level. And you will not have enough time to deal with all those things.”

Mashaba recently went on a west African safari with the Under-20 team to prepare for the upcoming African Youth Championship qualifier against Cameroon.

Of the squad he had, none of the players play regular first team football for their respective clubs.

In this regard, the coach has urged Premiership clubs to play youngsters on a regular basis.

“That is something we really need to discuss because just sitting on the sidelines and not getting game time does not help players. The most important thing here is game time. Sometimes we are keeping gems on the bench. And then when you call them up to the national team, you are strangling them because the level of participation is too high.”

Mashaba, meanwhile, is excited to hear that former SuperSport midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo has joined Dutch giants FC Twente for PEC Zwolle. Mokotjo is one of the country’s most talented players, but has been overlooked by previous coaches for a Bafana team place.

The classy midfielder could not win a place in the SuperSport team a few years ago under Gavin Hunt, but is now a star in the Dutch Eredivisie, having also attracted interest from giants Ajax Amsterdam.

“Mokotjo has been around for a long time. He went to the Danone (Nations Cup) and was banging in goals like nobody’s business. He then vanished and now has emerged on the other side. At home we have forgotten him because we do not have data. This shows how important it is to keep tabs on players,” said Mashaba, who worked with Mokotjo previously at junior national team level.

Meeting with PSL coaches

“I would like to thank all the coaches who have pledged their support to this team. I felt great about it. If you look after the World Cup there is going to be a symposium, where all the participating countries, and even those that did not compete, will sit and deliberate on positive issues that came out of the World Cup. We have got to do the same thing at home, maybe once or twice a month we sit and deliberate about our football. That will improve our football.”

Appointing his technical team

“We need to have a technical team that is familiar with the junior teams and who are good in dealing with the youth. We are building a team for the future and we have to start at grassroots level and bring them up. We are looking at making it a point that all the coaches in the junior teams work together with the coaches in the senior team, so what is being done in the senior team is made known to the junior teams. Our work will be much easier that way, unlike working in segments or in pockets, where the one hand does not know what the other hand is doing.”

The Caf Champions League

“When Pirates went to snatch the ‘Star’ in the Champions League, remember that the following year we (Bafana Bafana) started doing well. We won the Africa Cup of Nations. So it is very important that our teams play and do well in the competition. Mentally the players must be strong.” - The Star