Ntseki's chance to lay down a marker with Bafana
JOHANNESBURG – Molefi Ntseki has to mark the beginning of his tenure as Bafana Bafana coach with victory at the weekend.
It is the best way for him to send a warning to any future opposition that South Africa’s senior national team is not led by a ‘cheap option’ as some have opined. Instead, he should make them aware that there is an astute technical brain, a student of the game and a master tactician occupying the Bafana hotseat.
Sunday’s Nelson Mandela Challenge clash with Mali in Port Elizabeth provides the former Under-17 national team coach with a great platform to set the ball rolling on what should be a tenure to help bring an end to our reliance on overseas coaches who are often here for a quick buck and not necessarily to help develop our game.
Granted it is but a friendly game. Yet there has been a precedent set when it comes to the Mandela Challenge that our teams go all out for the win.
Yes there have been defeats with the likes of Brazil, the Netherlands and the US having gotten the better of Bafana in this tie initially played as a way to celebrate the inauguration of our first black president, the late Nelson Mandela.
But lately, Bafana have been winning the Mandela Challenge - granted against lowly opposition in comparison to the earlier years - and Ntseki would do well to keep the winning momentum going.
Besides, there is also the small matter of wanting to build confidence ahead of the tough Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches coming up against Ghana and Sudan next month.
Beat Mali on Sunday and Ntseki would have earned Bafana a measure of respect from his next opponents.
And victory in PE will also silence those critics who felt he was not worthy of the job and let him prepare for the qualifiers without their irritating background noise.
Not that Ntseki is one to concern himself about such, the former teacher having shown incredible nonchalance at his first press conference in the job when he ignored Neil Tovey’s petulance as the Safa Technical Director disrespectfully chatted away when the coach had the platform.
The injuries and subsequent withdrawal from the squad of key players Thamsanqa Mkhize and Bongani Zungu, and Percy Tau being a doubtful starter would have rattled the new coach a bit given their influential roles for Bafana at the recent Afcon in Egypt.
But it is for this reason that he has a squad in camp and not a team. And Ntseki has a great chance to show the players that, unlike most of his predecessors, he will not pick his team on reputation but rather that the line up will be made up of the best available players at the time.
The patriot in me is very excited that a son of the soil who has served his country well over the years, someone who has proven himself as being able to not only spot talent but help groom it too, is in charge of our national team.
And I am in no doubt Ntseki has it in him to make a success of his opportunity. Key to him making it will be for his employers to support him fully. Many times in the past we have heard Bafana coaches lament the fact that Safa essentially worked against them.
My plea to president Danny Jordaan and his people at Safa is to allow Ntseki to flourish by giving him your full backing. He shines, you shine. South Africa shines. It’s a no brainer.