|Veteran: AFCON winner Claude Le Roy has coached NINE national sides|
SHAKES MASHABA’S honeymoon was fun. The 64-year-old’s intitial stanza was good for South African football, two wins and a draw in his opening three games sent a shiver of expectation through Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and the millions who long for an effective Bafana Bafana.
But the painful 0-0 draw against Congo last Wednesday – and subsequent allegations from their 68-year-old French coach Claude Le Roy – have cast something of a shadow over the great Shakes revival.
Though South Africa remain undefeated after four Group A AFCON qualifying games and surprise captain Senzo Meyiwa has yet to concede a goal, there is no disguising the paucity of ideas in front of 38,817 at the Peter Mokabe Stadium.
And what are we to make of the bizarre war of words between Mashaba and Le Roy, two of the grand old men of African football?
Initially, when Le Roy came out post-match and lashed Mashaba’s “shocking behaviour” it look like a storm in a tea-cup, a spat over Shakes saying Congo goalkeeper Chancel Massa wasn’t up to much.
But subsequent investigation reveals are far nastier aspect. Le Roy says Mashaba made an obscene gesture “which I cannot repeat in front of the ladies” – and he is demanding action over an alleged "grasping of the private parts".
An AFCON winner with Cameroon, Le Roy, emotional and upset after a game he felt his side might have won, said: “I’m shocked by the behaviour of the head coach of Bafana Bafana. At the end of the game, he showed me with his hand.
“Some people saw him do that. I couldn’t believe it was possible at our level, at international level.
“I can tell you it’s the first time in my life of coaching, I’ve been coaching for 34 years. We have a photo from one of our photographers. I think Fifa and Caf will receive this photo because from an educator (coach) you cannot accept that in terms of behaviour.”
At first, South Africans were happy to dismiss Le Roy’s ranting as the disappointment of a sad old man. But there’s more to it than that.
Leroy added: “It’s unbelievable. I saw that in a country where I was so proud to be today. I was in charge of the world team for the 89th birthday of president Nelson Mandela in Cape Town and it was one of the biggest moments in my career.
“When I see that, I cannot call this man a coach because he does not deserve it. Before the game, I was saying something very simple. Football is a school of humility. When you win, you have to be more humble than when you lose.
“I’ve won a lot in my career, a lot of big competitions and I never said anything. In football you always have to stay humble, not to speak like the qualification was already there. Football is difficult.”
And Le Roy is not your average French journeyman, he has a real understanding of football, where he has coached for three decades everywhere from Cambridge to Cameroon, a veteran of NINE international coaching positions.
|Denial: Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba|
Delving in to a fascinating background, he said: “My love for Africa comes from my grandparents and my father, who was a warrior for Patrice Lumumba in the fight for independence. I know about the battle in South Africa. This country is something very important for me.”
Predictably Mashaba denied making an obscene gesture (allegedly looking at Le Roy and grabbing his own testicles), saying: “I don’t know what I did. I would have loved him to have said (to me) so that I could comment. I know nothing about that.
“I gave him a South African medal before the game and shook his hand. Let him come with the pictures and let’s see what he’s talking about.”
“Full-time, I never even came close to that man. I don’t know what he’s saying.”
We await photographic evidence with interest. At the very least, SAFA must investigate these allegations. If CAF and FIFA don’t do it first.
This article first appeared in www.thenewage.co.za earlier today.