|Fiery baptism: new Bafana boss Shakes Mashaba|
ON an opening PSL weekend dominated by poor finishing, a poor pitch and the poor upsetting the rich, Shakes Mashaba has revealed his plans to revive South African football.
The sensible choice as Bafana Bafana’s new national head coach MUST hit the ground running with a hectic AFCON 2015 qualifying schedule looming next month. In the space of four days at the start of September he must survive a trip to Khartoum, Sudan and a home clash with Nigeria in Cape Town.
That’s some fiery baptism, and one that could be upset by the Ebola outbreak before qualification ends on November 19. Shakes says: “We have to finalise the technical staff. Then we’ll announce a squad for a four-day camp before those opening two matches.
“I wish I could turn back the hand of time to give us more room to prepare but I can’t.”
Some would say he might have cut short his time with the AmaJitas on their friendly tour of West Africa which shortened his preparation time by nearly a fortnight after his appointment. Two draws and two defeats suggest it was hardly the perfect trip.
But Shakes opted to stick with his Under 20s and - having named their squad today - will probably join them for the trip to Cameroon next week despite the pressing concerns of picking, preparing and refining a senior squad.
Though the last 10 years have been dominated by youth coaching, Mashaba insists he can handle the top level again: “Without any fear I’m on the mark when it comes to coaching. I doubt nothing about my ability and I can do nothing about those who do.
“In September there’s be a FIFA symposium in Egypt to look at the latest trends from the World Cup, like all progressive coaches in the world, I’ll be there.”
As for the glaring problems in our domestic league, Mashaba reckons: “We have two main challenges, match intelligence and finishing.
“The problem with our finishing situation is technique. It’s killing us. There are elementary things that must be drilled in to our players at the development stage.”
Refreshingly, amid the glib solutions, Mashaba is prepared to take on the Mamelodi Sundowns monopoly. The current champions, aka Moneyloani Signdowns, tend to buy up most of the local talent and loan out large numbers of their 60-plus squad while refusing to allow those players to play against them.
Pitso says: “I will speak to Pitso. Sundowns are not breaking any laws but how are they going to measure if these players are any good?
“I’d be happier if they erase this clause that says you, if we loan you, you don’t play. They’ve got to let loaned players play against them and see if they’re on their level.”
If he tackles that problem, Mashaba will be a hero. If he solves the national goal-scoring conundrum, even more so. But the fact remains, failure in those opening two AFCON qualifiers next month will end the honeymoon for a man who, in his previous attempts, won 12 and lost just two with the senior national side.
Mashaba says: “I know I’m nothing without support. I know there’ll be times when we cruise smoothly, times when we hit turbulence.
“We must not be swallowed by each moment. When we win we must know that sometimes we’ll lose. When we lose we must know that we have to repay that by winning.”
And on the thorny problem of non-selection of foreign stars which derailed Mashaba’s reign a decade ago, he told the Sunday Times: “Players that will be with my Bafana are the patriotic ones who won’t be told to honour this call-up and not that one. For people to say they don’t want to play for the national team is not on.
“All of us must be committed to reviving the kind of football we know we can play and bringing back joy to the faces of our people.”
SOCCERBALLZ! my innovative football show on www.ballz.co.za 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.
Quotes in this article courtesy of Sunday Times question and answer session last Sunday. My requests for a personal interview with Shakes fell on deaf ears!