Thursday, 7 August 2014

The PSL is back: and new Bafana boss Shakes Mashaba weeps

Tears for fears: Shakes Mashaba
SHAKES MASHABA arrived back in South Africa early yesterday morning, burst in to tears and lamented the quality of the players he has available as South Africa's new national head coach.

It wasn't vastly encouraging.

This weekend, we get the chance to see what he's talking about. With Home Affairs getting sticky over work permits, the PSL is likely to kick-off without ANY foreign stars due to paperwork issues.

Mamelodi Sundowns presents the most interesting argument. Their Zimbabwean duo Cuthbert Malajila and Khama Billiat both played in Saturday's shock 2-1 MTN8 defeat against Platinum Stars but are (as of this morning) not registered to start the League campaign this weekend, along with Ghanaian Rashid Sumalia and Zambian Mukuka Mulenga.

Nigerian Ejike Ezoenye is back home waiting for his stamp and even Belgian back-up goalkeeper Glenn Verbauwhede, who claimed a work permit through the "financial independence" route remains unregistered.

But for captain Alje Schut from the Netherlands and Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, as well as Mozambique's Elias Palembe, their registration as "naturalised citizens" means they miss the big foreign cull which will - barring last minute Home Affairs paper shuffling - cast a shadow over the opening weekend of the PSL season.

But for Mashaba, the 64-year-old about to embark on his FOURTH stint with Bafana Bafana, this should provide a perfect opportunity to see a couple of sidelined South Africans, surely?

Mashaba arrived back from his West African tour with out Under 20 AmaJitas lamenting: "We still have to groom players. We haven't had good players since 1996. We don't have players who can change a game. We have to look at young players to close the gap."

And he should know. The tour produced distinctly mediocre results. While our Under 17 AmaJimbos under Molefi Ntseki were hammering Tanzania 4-0 en route to next month's clash with Egypt in a final African Youth Championship qualifier, Mashaba's older generation lost to Mali and Ivory Coast while drawing with Senegal and Burkina Faso.

Mashaba, nearly overwhelmed at times by emotion in his first press conference since his surprise naming as national coach ahead of Carlos Queiroz and Frank Rijkaard nearly a fortnight ago, said: "It's even more difficult to take this job because I love the junior national teams. it's not nice to start a project and break off from it.

"I was excited but now I realise their is so much work to do."

You'd think Mashaba would have though about all this before he took the job. His emergence as a candidate only really gained momentum in the final days before Danny Jordaan's long-awaited announcement. Yet he continued on his grand tour of the north despite having the AFCON 2015 qualifiers against Sudan, Nigeria and Rwanda to prepare for early next month.

Still, he's back. Having missed fairly impressive opening round of MTN8 games, he'll get to see Moroka Swallows - missing their three Eastern European signings - at Orlando Pirates in the oldest Soweto Derby on Saturday at 8.15pm. That match is sure to grap all his attention though SuperSport United will be playing Gavin Hunt's title contenders Bidvest Wits at the same time.

Kaizer Chiefs go to Free State Stars at 3pm,  while Polokwane City are at Amatuks. Chippa United, who bounced straight back up from the NFD, entertain Platinum Stars at 6pm, presumably without their biggest off-season signing Fatau Dauda, the Ghana World Cup goalkeeper.

Sunday sees AmaZulu, aiming for a top four spot according to coach Craig Rosslee, take on Roger de Sa's youthful Ajax Cape Town and Bloemfontein Celtic, under new management, have got Clive Barker's Mpumalanga Black Aces, both games at 3pm.

But in truth, all eyes will be on Pitso Mosimane's Mamelodi Sundowns when last year's champions Masandawana entertain Steve Komphela's modest Maritzburg United in Atteridgeville in the opening game tomorrow night at 8pm.

That 2-1 defeat against Dikwena, who wept crocodile tears over the Southampton-like departure of a host of major stars during the winter, puts Pitso under immediate pressure. With 17 players due to go on loan from Masandawana's huge squad and the foreigners likely to be ruled out, the pressure is already on.

But given the money they've spent and the vast squad of players they've assembled, would Sundowns fans want it any other way?

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