Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Brilliant day for Bafana Bafana; a bad day for illegal guns. Hopefully.

The chosen one: Brilliant Khuzwayo
RARELY has a national football association had a tougher week to deal with. The loss of a current international captain is, thankfully, unique but utterly devastating. Yet the South African Football Association coped admirably.

Danny Jordaan, president for just over a year, has led with dignity throughout the Senzo Meyiwa tragedy – and in his unveiling of a gun amnesty in honour of our fallen captain, Jordaan deserves all the help he can get in a nation where all sections of the population love to keep a weapon in the closet.

Jordaan, a curious combination of authority and bashfulness, wheeled out some real big guns to back a campaign which will end with a Senzo statue (made up of melted gun metal) at SAFA House, right outside 2010 World Cup Final venue Soccer City.

Jordaan and Norman Arendse lead a group including human rights lawyer George Bizos, Gun Free South Africa’s Adele Kirsten, football legend Jomo Sono and THREE judges amongst others.

Not the Bafana squad; Jordaan and gun amnesty team
Jordaan captured the moment well: “It was Madiba who told us “Throw your weapons in the sea”.Guns destroy our society. We need your help to build this statue.”

I first tweeted about a gun amnesty in honour of Senzo on October 27 (see picture below) suggesting it was the one way Meyiwa's death might bring something positive.

On a day when Bafana and Bidvest Wits star Sbu Vilakazi revealed his parent’s home had been subjected to an armed robbery in Soweto last Saturday, Bizos said: "It usually takes a tragedy for people, a country, to say something needs to happen as a matter of urgency. It's not only about the death of the wonderful goalkeeper but also of the other 17 deaths that occurred that day. It's a matter that needs to concern every one of us, every citizen.”

Jordaan has achieved stability on the pitch too. With all our national teams showing signs of improvement, he then turned to Shakes Mashaba to announce the squad which will play Sudan at home (at the Moses Mabhida in honour of Senzo) on November 15 and Nigeria away on November 19, saying: “I have no idea what the team will be…”

Mashaba handled his role well too. He spoke of the pain of having to erase Senzo’s name at the top of the list and gave us Brilliant Khuzwayo and Siyabonga Mpontshane as Meyiwa’s goalkeeping replacements.

He also recalled May Mahlangu and Lehlohonolo Majoro for the first time since Gordon Igesund’s tenure, overlooking the claims of Kamahelo Mokotjo and David Zulu. Much could be said about those decisions.  But for now, #shakesknowsbest is the hashtag after four games, two wins and two draws leave Bafana needing just two points to ensure qualification for the Ebola-threatened African Cup of Nations in Morocco, scheduled for mid-January next year.

Tribute to Senzo: My gun amnesty tweet, Oct 27
It’s the goalkeeping situation which intrigues. Ronwen Williams, the SuperSport United stopper, was seen as the young pretender under Itumeleng Khune when Igesund ruled the roost. Moeneeb Josephs had even been mentioned.

But Khune’s Kaizer Chiefs stand-in Khuzwayo, a regular for Mashaba’s Under 20s, got the nod along with Mpontshane, not always the first choice at Platinum Stars.

Though Belgium-based Darren Keet should start against Sudan, Shakes may well turn to Khuzwayo, who is older than Williams but, paradoxically, less experienced. Remember, in those opening four Group A qualifiers, Senzo and South Africa have not conceded a goal despite the absence of Khune, injured before the opening trip to Sudan.

Up front, Majoro and Orlando Pirates team-mate Kermit Erasmus may get the chance to renew their club partnership, though Tokelo Rantie scored twice for Bournemouth in England last week. At the back, Tefu Mashamaite could grab the captain’s armband next to his Chiefs team-mate Tower Mathoho.

But this is Shakes. He doesn’t do the obvious. Young Rivaldo Coetzee from Ajax Cape Town started next to Mathoho against Congo, and though he lacks MashaMIGHTY’s physique and experience, the 18-year-old could enjoy a repeat performance; he didn't do a bad job.

Throughout his short spell, Mashaba has confounded the critics and gone his own way. While the likes of Ayanda Patosi, Mokotjo and Siyanda Xulu will spend the international break thousands of kilometres away, few can argue about saving on the air tickets if Bafana get the win they need next week.

My Bafana Bafana line-up would look like this: Keet; Ngcongca, Mathoho, MashaMIGHTY (capt), Khumalo; Serero, Mahlangu, Jali, Furman; Erasmus, Majoro.

It makes sense to me. Renew those club partnerships at centre-back and centre-forward; keep last year's PSL player of the year Vilakazi and Rantie as impact subs if the goals won't come, rely on Keet's experience.

But given Mr Mashaba’s ability to surprise, he may go with Khuzwayo; Ngcongca, Mathoho, Coetzee, Khumalo; Masango, Manyisa, Jali (captain), Furman; Ndulula, Rantie.

For now, #shakesknowsbest. And so does Danny Jordaan. We can only hope for plenty of shots and dozens of guns for SAFA over the coming weeks.

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