Monday, 2 July 2012

SAFA's master-stroke: Lucas Radebe returns as Bafana team manager

Top Bloke: Lucas Radebe and me last year

LUCAS RADEBE is back. Seven years after his retirement from football, South Africa's most successful player returns to the game - as Bafana Bafana's new team manager.
Less than 48 hours after naming Moroka Swallows boss Gordon Igesund as the nation's 15th new coach, the South African Football Association produced their 43-year-old master-stroke.
With president Kirsten Nemetandani presiding and Orlando Pirates chairman Irvin Khosa prompting, former Buccaneer boss Igesund now finds himself with a bullet-proof protector in Radebe, the man who played 200 games for Leeds United from 1994-2005, winning 70 Bafana caps and helping to lift the 1996 AFCON crown.
The trick with Radebe is that the factions in SAFA - and in the PSL - cannot touch South Africa's answer to David "Golden Balls" Beckham.
While Igesund, sharp and to the point, may put a few noses out of joint even before his opening friendly against (gulp) Brazil in September, Radebe will be there to offer advice, motivate the squad and deflect criticism.
During the selection process for the new coach, Radebe dropped obvious hints about his future role, telling Football411: "Firstly, it was not a bad idea to sack Pitso Mosimane because we need new ideas for the team and I'm sure Pitso accepts that we needed a change because we were not getting the results.
“Secondly, I think it was a good idea to shortlist local coaches, because I don't think we need somebody from overseas. It is best to get someone with a better understanding of our football."
Tellingly, he added: "I think the new coach will need a big technical team to help him with the selection of players, a motivator because players need that and so on to make sure they've got all angles covered.
"It won't be a bad idea to involve former coaches such as Clive Barker, but the bottom line is they must put together a technical team that will cover basically everything."
Following Igesund's appointment, Radebe told "Gordon has a great track record, we all have to support him. There are a lot of expectations, if things go wrong the public will be on his back.
"But Gordon showed at Swallows he can lead players, motivate them. We need a leader, we need confidence. He will bring that back to Bafana. We have to support him all the way."

SAFA remain coy on Radebe’s role – and the appointment of former Kaizer Chiefs stars Fani Madida and Doc Khumalo as assistant coaches. Chief Operations Officer Dennis Mumble said as the story grew around the football-speaking world: "We have no problem with speculation about those three, but it cannot be said that Safa has decided on them – that would be unfair to Gordon as he still has to discuss his preferences with us.”
Igesund himself told "I still have to discuss this with Safa. I will tell them who I believe should be my assistants."
You only have to meet Lucas Valeriu Radebe (born 12 April 1969) to know the role he will play on his long-awaited return to the game. I met him with agent Glyn Binkin in 2010 at the Moses Madhiba Stadium just before the World Cup and again last year with Robert Marawa when I was working in Abu Dhabi at the Laureus Sports Awards (see picture).
Famous for his charitable works, he oozes charisma, makes women go weak at the knees and generally talks sense, footballing or otherwise.
Now 43, Radebe grew up in Diepkloof , not the poshest end of Soweto, before being “resettled” aged 15 in the so-called homeland of Bophuthatswana, home to Sun City and little else back then. One of 11 children, he played football to keep off the streets, beginning life as a goalkeeper.
As he developed, Radebe became a handy midfielder and started his professional career at Kaizer Chiefs. After a shooting incident and much haggling, he moved to Howard Wilkinson’s 1991 First Division champions with Philemon “Chippa” Masinga in 1994. Even then, the move was worth £250,000 (nearly R3million) to the Amakhosi.
George Graham, something of an expert on central defenders, transformed “The Chief” into one of the Premier League’s great centre-backs, while Masinga was sold, Radebe was transformed. The adoration in Yorkshire even led to the formation of popular music group Kaiser Chiefs, named by Leeds-loving musicians in honour of Radebe.
When I first twittered about Radebe’s return to the Bafana fold on Saturday, the Elland Road faithful immediately got in touch, eagerly trying to find out what their former idol is expected to do in his new role. He captained Leeds in 1998-99 and held the defence together under David O’Leary when the club enjoyed some of their most successful seasons in recent memory.
Radebe turned down Manchester United, Roma and AC Milan as Leeds, spending money like there was no tomorrow, challenged for domestic and European honours. Sir Alex Ferguson said at the time: “Every club needs a Lucas Radebe.”
Radebe has been an ambassador for FIFA’s SOS Children's Villages and received the FIFA Fair Play Award in December 2000 for his work on behalf of Africa’s impoverished.
A major mover in football’s anti-racism campaigns, he was awarded a Contribution to the Community Award by the Premier League in 2003 to celebrate their 10th anniversary.
In 2004, he came 54th in a vote naming the Top 100 Great South Africans and is a great pal of golfer Tiger Woods, with whom he helps to raise funds for various children's causes.
It hasn’t all be plain sailing. Radebe’s wife Feziwe died of cancer in October 2008 and in December of the same year he needed treated for a heart complaint after collapsing while at the gym.
In April 2010 he won the PFA Merit Award, saying: “Football has played such a big part in lifting my community. I'm very proud.”
Previous Lucas Radebe blogs:

1 comment:

  1. Great blog Neil. It would really be a pleasure to Lucas Radebe back in the bafana fold. I think manny dubious decisions SAFA have made in the past were very politically motivated and I fear the same could happen with regards to Gordon's assistants seeing as he's going to have very little say to that. Muzzy.