Sunday, 27 July 2014

SHAKES MASHABA FOR BAFANA: South Africa take the sensible option, but will it bring success?

He's back: Shakes Mashaba
COME on, admit it. The naming of Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba as South African’s new national head coach on Saturday was a bit of an anti-climax. It was a cost-effective and eminently sensible appointment, but not one to get the football-speaking world talking.

On a day when our rugby Sharks and cricketing Proteas had disappointed and Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates played out yet another goalless draw in front of 90,000 fans, there was a general air of low expectation about the whole thing.

Let’s get the positives down first: Mashaba was, by some margin, the cheapest option on SAFA’s table. That money can be pumped in to development rather than high-risk wages. His salary will probably amount to around a quarter of the R22m figure being bandied about for Carlos Queiroz, the only other name presented to the technical committee.

Mashaba is local, popular… and has done the job before. Three times. There should be no surprises when PSL clubs refuse to release players and foreign clubs jealously guard their Bafana youngsters. He should be able to deal with the agents, media and politicians who will involve themselves in his business.

Masahaba has a good track record during those spells in charge of Bafana (second only to Clive Barker) and a long association with success at junior levels including our last successful qualification for the Olympic games in 2000 and the Under 20 World Cup in 1997.

But all that was, in football terms, a lifetime ago. Though he won the COSAFA Under 20 tournament in Lesotho just last December, Mashaba wasn’t even in the running for the big job until SAFA realised he was the cut-price option barely a fortnight ago and, prompted by President Danny Jordaan, went public with his ambition.

Though it’s possible to see both England’s Roy Hodgson and Brazil’s recently expired Big Phil Scolari as similar to the Mashaba situation – local coach, spotted history, been suggested before – it would be unfair to judge Shakes just yet… Joachim Loew at Germany and Belgium’s Marc Wilmots show the other side of that equation.

Of course it’s easy to say SAFA are no great Shakes when we had big foreign names like Steve Keshi, Herve Renard, Patrick Kluivert, Carlos Queiroz and erm… David Moyes in the frame. I suspect a few of those big egos won't be happy to be over-looked for our beloved Shakes.

It worries me to read those stories from Mashaba’s last turbulent reign, when he was suspended and eventually fired for refusing to allow South Africa’ foreign contingent to arrive late for camp. Even now, Mark Fish – one of the players caught up in that particular storm - is not convinced. As he said on my show Soccerballz last Thursday: “Shakes would be a step backwards for South African football.”

Mashaba, now 63, will have to have a little more patience this time around with players like Ajax Amsterdam’s Thulani Serero and FC Rostov’s Siyanda Xulu, two key men in Bafana’s future when they try to balance the club v country equation.

I worry too that Mashaba has been working with kids for the past decade, apart from an unspectacular spell in charge at Swaziland in 2008. And that he does not have the technical or practical experience over the past decade to close the gap on the rest of Africa, let alone the world. The appointment of a Technical Director will be vital in making up that gap.

It's not just development that hampers South African football; training methods, match preparation, technological advances and modern dietary preparation have moved on apace too.

But for now, we can only take his word for it. Shakes himself, talking from the AmaJita U20 tour of West Africa, said: “My first duty would be to thank Mr Jordaan as well as the entire national executive for their gesture. Words fail me. I'm sure I won't be a disappointment.

“I will pull out all the stops to make sure that our people become part and parcel of our national team. The only way to do that is by bringing results.”

Ah. Results. The AFCON 2015 qualifiers start next month with Sudan and Nigeria. Generally a new boss gets a honeymoon period. But a pair of opening defeats could easily see the tide turn against South Africa’s new head coach. By November 19, AFCON qualifying will be done. Let’s hope Shakes isn’t.

SOCCERBALLZ! my innovative football show on with Mark Fish airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. Ballz will also provide daily World Cup updates from next week.

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(including caretakers/interim appointments)

Stanley "Screamer" Tshabalala (1992)
Ephraim "Shakes" Mashaba (1992)
Augusto Palacios (1993)
Clive "The Dog" Barker (1994–97)
Jomo Sono (1998)
Philippe Troussier (1998)
Trott Moloto (1998–00)
Carlos Queiroz (2000–02)
Ephraim "Shakes" Mashaba (2001)
Trott Moloto (2002)
Jomo Sono (2002)
Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba (2002–03)
Jomo Sono (2003)
April Phumo (2004)
Stuart Baxter (2004–05)
Ted Dumitru (2005–06)
Pitso Mosimane (2006)
Carlos Alberto Parreira (2007–08)
Joel Santana (2008–09)
Carlos Alberto Parreira (2009–10)
Pitso Mosimane (2010–12)
Steve Komphela (2012)
Gordon Igesund (2012–2014)
Shakes Mashaba (2014-)

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