Wednesday, 28 January 2015

ONE POINT AND NO HOPE: The Bafana Bafana verdict. Warning: contains criticism.

ONE POINT: Shakes Mashaba promised FIVE
The sickness that lies at the heart of South African football can no longer be ignored. Bafana Bafana’s epic failure in Equatorial Guinea has reduced the proud diski nation to a laughing stock, a model for rival African nations to ignore.

Ephraim Mashaba, a coach tried several times before at the pinnacle of our game, epitomises the failings, the blind spots, the weaknesses. After a strong performance in qualifying where AFCON 2013 champions Nigeria were left behind by unbeaten Shakes and his new model army, we were just starting to believe.

Then the arrogance crept in. The arrogance that makes South Africa the team to beat all over the continent. And boy, do we take a beating up north. And not just on the football pitch.

Rather than pushing on with SAFA’s vision of a new, young Bafana Bafana, Mashaba led us straight up the garden path and in to the rickety shed marked “Same old mistakes”. Or is it “Same old Shakes”?

He said he’d win it. He shrugged off the Group of Death. He promised us success, like a punch-drunk boxer trying to extend a canvas-licking career. Laughable really, from a man who complained about being described as the “cheap but sensible” option by this writer (quoting SAFA president Danny Jordaan) from the outset.

Going in to a distinctly dodgy tournament where the banned hosts were offered the easiest of draws and South Africa were pooled with three of the toughest nations on the continent, Shakes sneered: “This is not the Group of Death, this is the Group of Life. It’s not about "will we go through?" but who will go through with us.”

He said we would pick up five points and remain unbeaten against Algeria, Senegal and Ghana. When he departed Oliver Tambo International, he told us: “I’ve packed for six weeks, I’m not coming back early, no way.”

And here we are, on a bleak morning lightened only by the blessed relief of Eskom load shedding in many areas and obscuring our view. We ended with ONE POINT. We ended BOTTOM OF THE GROUP. We ended WITH THE SAME OLD EXCUSES.

The Mashaba explanation this morning: "We want to win, we just don't know how to."

Shakes went to the tournament defying all conventions. In his arrogance, those who, like me, asked questions about his bizarre 34-man provisional squad found themselves blocked by SAFA and Bafana Bafana on twitter. He picked nine players belonging to one agent, several of whom weren’t even playing regularly for their clubs in the PSL.

At a loss: how South Africans feel this morning
Time and again he refused to listen to reasonable pleas for sanity. May Mahlangu was banned for being fatigued. FC Twente’s Kamehelo Mokotjo had already been dumped and told he “looked heavy” after travelling 12000 miles and not making an appearance early in his reign. The final straw? Thulani Serero, our only Champions League star, was booted out when he “didn’t report to camp”. Thing was, SAFA had told him to report on January 4. He was axed on December 30. Work that one out.

And then, of course, the ridiculous hype before the tournament. The dodgy friendly wins so reminiscent of the pre-World Cup era in 2010. Zambia, Cameroon, Mali all too comfortably dealt with, encouraging a tidal wave of Shakes-mania with no questions asked. For a nation still living under the shadow of unpunished match-fixing the naivety was – is – astonishing.

By the time Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula arrived to assume his role as sport’s least attractive – and loudest – cheerleader, Bafana had already thrown away the opening game against Algeria. Mbalula was allowed to strut around the camp, with no questions asked. He was “calming the nerves” and “entertaining our troops” according to one of our top broadcasters. What a joke.

Criticism, even at that point, was condemned as unpatriotic. Inaccurate reports from within the camp, where only “approved” journalists dared to tread, gave us hilarious tales: Rivaldo Coetzee was “too mentally weak to recover from his knee problem”; Brilliant Khuzwayo was “aloof and arrogant”; Oupa Manyisa was “dropped after a late afternoon training injury”.

All utter balderdash. With lickspittle assistants Owen Da Gama and Thabo Senong (and the SAFA media men) egging him on, Shakes could do no wrong. Refusing to confirm his captain until the last possible minute, changing goalkeepers for all three games (and the preceding friendlies), playing Manyisa on the left, calling up Ayanda Gcaba, a THIRD Orlando Pirates right back, when Patrick Phungwayo’s injury struck.

These were the actions of a man out of control, unable to contain his enthusiasm for his own voice, his own bizarre views on football. He acts like Sir Alex Ferguson but has the talent of Vladimir Vermecovic.

Three times at AFCON 2015, Bafana went 1-0 up. Three times Mashaba failed to adjust to the situation, hold on to a lead, show even an ounce of modern tactical acumen. He went in to the tournament with two-and-a-half centre-backs and no left-footed talent.

SAFA president Jordaan promised me Mashaba’s appointment would be followed by the naming of a “fully-qualified, big-name” Technical Director. Danny said Shakes would have sessions with FIFA’s guru Gerard Houllier, the former Liverpool boss. Instead, Mashaba was left to do his own thing, have his own way.

Instead, fuelled by the growing crowd of yes-men surrounding him, Shakes completely lost the plot. Any advantages gained in a qualifying campaign which defied the loss of Senzo Meyiwa and Itumeleng Khune are lost. The youngsters – apart from Rivaldo Coetzee, who isn’t half the man Tefu Mashamaite is – have faded from view.

While his beloved AmaJita blossomed at the Commonwealth Cup in Russia under caretaker David Ntoane, Mashaba was fiddling with players who have simply passed their best-by date. In the end, the average age in Equatorial Guinea was barely a year younger than Gordon Igesund’s squad in 2013, who surged through their AFCON group and went out in the quarter-finals on penalties.

There are no signs of improvement from the dark days of #ingordwetrust. #shakesknowsbest reveals no real crusade for youth, no departure from the agent collusion confirmed by PSL chairman Irvin Khoza before Christmas.

All I see is a repeat of 2003, when Mashaba was fired for refusing to pick our overseas stars for a friendly against England. Speak to those lads today, ask them about Shakes and his methods. Or have an off-the-record chat with most of the top PSL coaches. What was it Mark Fish said to me the day Shakes got the job? “This is a massive step backwards”.

After the disastrous failure against Ghana, Shakes emerged with this: “I think we need to go back to our basics of playing football, knowing when to do things, how to do things, and where to do them.

"Why rush when you're one goal up? Why were we were knocking it back to them? That's where the problems lie."

The problem lies of course with Mashaba himself. Our top European stars, playing at a level far better than you’ll ever see in the PSL, aren’t just absent. They are banished.

The heart of South Africa’s brave new world – Serero, Mokotjo and Mahlangu with Siyanda Xulu and others barely mentioned – has been torn out. They’re all under 25 and on the Bafana scrapheap.

We have no idea who our best goalkeeper is this morning. Neither does Shakes. We have no idea why Kermit Erasmus and Lehlohonolo Majoro were left behind. Does Shakes?

We will cling on to Mandla Masango’s cracking volley last night but in truth: how many shots did we have? I have yet to see a nation capable of taking this AFCON by the scruff of the neck but we’re going home with the sniggers of the continent ringing in our ears.

Then this from Mashaba: "Thanks to the people back home, they are sad today. But next time they will be happy." Really? Next time?

Shakes, of course, is going nowhere. The yes men and chubby cheerleaders will see to that.

So we look forward to what? A PSL, resuming on February 10, racked by dodgy agents and “club managers”; a domestic game with falling attendances and academies closed by age cheating. A transfer window dominated by a failure to extend contracts rather than a search for new talent. A top flight where the unbeaten leaders are 18 points clear without the need for a real striker.

Our only hope of reclaiming respectability? Strong performances from Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs in the African Champions League.

I won’t be holding my breath.


  1. Honest and frank. Pity the powers that be and the cheerleaders will term this as hogwash.

  2. I couldn't have said it better myself! give this man a Bells!

  3. Should I hear one more football pundit saying we need to go the drawing board again, I am going to vomit.
    When they dismantled Clive Barker's squad after the 96 Winners, they said we must go to the drawing board, young players must be used.... what have they achieved these bunch of ,,,,
    How many drawing boards do we have?
    Cant we just acknowledge the fact that, we dont have players good enough to compete with the rest of the continent.
    PSL is the richest leaque in Africa, but it produces what,,, I am reducing the status of PSL to junk.
    In soccer like any other sports, you need talent, you cant be taught how to play soccer, either you have the skill or you dont.
    bringing Mashaba back was also SAFA fault. Mashaba must just shut up, eish where is Bheki Cele.Mashaba has no skill with international soccer thats why he is not a fan of foreign based payers, he was fired for that previously.. Come on Africa how come none of African coaches are coaching in the BPL, it is because they are not good enough, thats why Africa always imports coaches from abroad.
    Who are going to blame now, before it was we need local coaches, what have they delivered in terms of International glory with Bafamblous Bafamblous.

  4. Thanks Mxolisi, Mpho and erm, Anon... record breaking reads on this one. Back to the drawing board? Nope. Just play our best players.

  5. Racist rant, you just do not like Shakes because he is black, I understand. By the way he is the most successful coach of Bafana of all time, even better than your precious white football gods.

    1. ...and nou? No wonder why they say blacks are very racist as well. IDIOTS like you don't deserve to live in this beautiful world. If I had powers, people like you would long be exterminated.

    2. lol, what makes you think hes black. but agreed its the lowest form of accusation, baseless. nowhere Neals has been racist, not just on this issue, but many other. only if this guy could come out of his anonymous cowardice mask.

  6. Sad but it's a reality. Most of us had seen this crash coming a while ago already. Mashaba is arrogant and that is/will always be his downfall. No one understand his selection criteria except him (form and regular football is definitely not part of it)

  7. Poor Mashaba was exposed for being tactically bankrupt. Neal can you please tell us the story about Shakes' SAFA coaching badges?

  8. All three games we played at the afcon have 1 common factor. We scored and couldn't defend, proffessional soccer players cant score a simple tap in when they are 2meters from goal. Why drop majoro, erasmus, serero really buffles me. For a man with more than 20yrs in the game and cant read the game ....eish!!! How I wish they could learn from gavin hunt and mourinho. This man has not adapted to modern football... wow SAFA wow, wonder how much the agents paid him.......................

  9. Great comments (bar one) but was just wondering if anonymous contributors could pop their name on the end of the message?

  10. fair and objective criticism. shakes can take a lot from this if he heeds. this wasnt even shakes mandate, to win afcon15. HE BROUGHT THE SPOTLIGHT AND PRESSURE ON HIMSELF, by saying we are going there to compete!

    of course its nonsensical to call for shakes head. such people and their calls should just be ignored nje.

    shakes, and safa, need to have a meeting with foreign based players, they cant all be wrong, so we cant have a progressive result.

    shakes needs to work on his ego, pride, attitude which borders on arrogance. sounds harsh i know.

    ' Three times Mashaba failed to adjust to the situation, hold on to a lead, show even an ounce of modern tactical acumen.' this sums it all up. I witnessed it in the Ghana game. from 50th minute our midfield was completely obliterated and virtually bypassed. we were still a goal up. he shouldve enforced by making subsitution. he didnt. only when we conceded he started changing! too late!

    what is wrong with starting with your strongest side possible. shakes seem to believe in the old style of catching your opposing coach by the element of surprise, in which u introduce your best players later on in game when u have absorbed pressure. that doesnt work anymore! hence, NO ounce of modern tactical acumen.



  11. personally, i did not expect that we'd win the tournament. it takes a lot than just a selection of the best players, a subjective thing. even if we had the best squad that we ALL agreed on, victory wasnt guaranteed. THIS IS FOOTBALL.

    however, we need to COMPETE AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL, SA must remain in the top 5 in Africa.

    we have talent. we have resources. we have passionate supporters. MANAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP NEEDS TO SWITCH ITS SKILLS TO A HIGHER NOTCH.

    DEVELOPMENT ISNT EVEN A CRISIS, contrary to popular (mis)believe.

    we are almost there.