Saturday, 21 March 2015

THE MOST BIZARRE FOOTBALLING NATION IN THE WORLD: Diski in Mzanzi remains inexplicable. But gives us plenty to talk about

REF, YOU NEED GLASSES! Stuart Baxter was red-carded after making
this gesture to our "No 1" referee Daniel Bennett on Saturday night
WE have seen enough, in less than one season, to know that South African football is unique. In a land where soccer dominates, there are more questions than answers and we rely on cricket and rugby for international success.

Bafana Bafana, with their ever-changing goalkeepers, unsolved match-fixing scandals and unbanned foreign stars, offers a bizarre insight in to our game. I’ve researched how often an international squad has chosen TWO goalkeepers from ONE club, It has NEVER happened.

Itumeleng Khune and Brilliant Khuzwayo BOTH playing for Kaizer Chiefs is just indicative of the confusion we face as South African football fans. And it's not new. Have a look at the Brian Baloyi and Andre Arendse debate a decade ago (Shakes Mashaba was the coach then too, with goalkeeping and captaincy confusion, see

There's also THIS involving Mashaba's multiple previous spells in charge of Bafana. We knew, we were warned, he had previous, all the old pros warned me. But we gave him the job again.

This kind of thing happens NOWHERE ELSE in the world. Neither does the tumult over Tokelo Rantie, Ayanda Patosi, May Mahlangu – called up despite injury in Turkey – and Kamohelo Mokotjo, dismissed last year as “heavy and sluggish” by Mashaba. Our four best overseas players dismissed for AFCON but curiously recalled for the upcoming international friendlies on the insistence of SAFA president Danny Jordaan.

Rarely in my 35 years of sports writing have I heard anybody quite as politically astute (or as rude when the right questions are being asked) as Mashaba, a man who is capable of avoiding difficult questions while simultaneously having his two mobile phones and his lap-top stolen by a car jammer. Like our president, he laughs when he should cry, dances when he should act, takes when he should be giving.

Surrounded by agents despite the furore over his predecessor Gordon Igesund, Shakes continues to be seen as a messiah despite the second-worst AFCON performance in Bafana’s history being the most recent evidence of his lack of tactical and diplomatic acumen.

But it’s not just Mashaba. It’s not just SAFA, with their empty promises of a Technical Director and a gun-metal statue of the late Senzo Meyiwa. There are sinister forces all over the place. Evidence that Diski in Mzanzi is simply INEXPLICABLY INEFFICIENT.

We have the outrageous, late blooming talent of Thabo Rakhale and the obvious joy of Hendrick Ekstein being messed about by our two biggest clubs as PSL attendance dip to unprecedented levels – we’re set to go under 6,000 per game, lower even than the all-white NFL in the bad old days of Apartheid in the 1970s.

AND NOTHING IS DONE. Nobody even talks about it. Our top football presenters, who have never played the game, steer the struggling ex-professionals away from anything controversial on radio and television. We shall bury our heads in the sand. We will not ask why "football managers" deal with agents on transfers rather than coaches. Or why the big clubs take all the sponsorship money. Or why our grass roots football, with the FIFA Legacy Fund earning interest in a dusty vault, remains neglected.

And why are Q-innovation tables so hard to come by? Why did our Asidlali reserve league fail to encourage Under 19s?

But we're talked about these things before. Tonight, a live eccentricity raised its head: we have our much-hyped number one referee Daniel Bennett missing a clear off-side and ignoring a blatant penalty as Kaizer Chiefs were ousted from the Nedbank Cup on Saturday night by Zeca Marques' NFD outfit Black Leopards.

Just to rub salt in the wounds, Bennett sent off a bemused coach Stuart Baxter after he made the gesture (pictured above) that suggests he needs spectacles. Great stuff!

To get to the nub of the South African problem THIS: Baxter is EIGHT POINTS clear at the top of the PSL. But he STILL hasn’t found a striker. Though Bernard Parker finally scored his fourth goal of the season in midweek against Moroka Swallows, it remains the case that Baxter’s midfielders and centre-backs (from set pieces) have scored 80 percent of his League goals.

With David Zulu and Matty Rusike failing again on Saturday, Baxter, with five non-scoring strikers, will now turn to James Keene, a 29-year-old British journeyman. After spending last week on trial at Naturena, Baxter says: “James is available and he suits our style. He’ll have to go home to apply for a work permit. It might be just for the rest of the season, but we’d like him long-term.”

Baxter says Keene has "a proven record" but he failed to score in the inaugural Indian Super League earlier this season and was deeply unimpressive. But like "experienced" New Zealander Jeremy Brockie at SuperSport United, perhaps Keene can show us how to score from two yards out, how to make incisive runs, shield the ball, show a decent first touch.

Or so the Kaizer Chiefs fans hope as we wait for April 4 and the resumption of the PSL after these two Bafana friendlies against Swaziland and Nigeria. I won’t link games like this to the unsolved match-fixing scandal before the 2010 World Cup. My head might explode.

But just to prove how strange our game is: consider our THIRTEEN coaching casualties this season. I spoke to Allan Freese, put on special leave by Platinum Stars on Friday night before the Nedbank Cup clash with Mamelodi Sundowns tomorrow. Then I spoke to Cavin Johnson, thrown out by SuperSport early in the season. And a couple of others.

As a specific interest group, they are as confused by our game as I am. 13 coaching casualties in a 16-team league? Unbelievable. Utterly confounded by the timing of Clive Barker’s departure from Mpumalanga Black Aces or Fani Madida’s short tenure at Moroka Swallows. And as for Ernst Middendorp’s winless efforts at Chippa United...

But this is South African football. Where even top of the table Baxter and super caretaker Eric Tinkler are insecure, despite all they have achieved. Stay tuned. It might be bizarre, but it sure gives me something to talk about.  Like tonight's Nedbank Cup winner for Jeremy Brockie as SuperSport United ousted Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup tonight...

1 comment:

  1. great piece Mr Collins, you know it always frustrates the crap out of me when Mashaba is in a media conference and our so called top journalist look to admire the man instead of asking real question. i mean after the Afcon the media lacked questions to such as extent that the man went to thank everything JERR!!!!!!! the fact left that conference room a happy man when he announce two goalkeepers from one club.