|SUPERSHAKES: Bafana coach Mashaba|
LOOK! In the sky above Dobsonville! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's SUPERSHAKES! All hail an emphatic 3-0 win over mighty Mauritius hours after half his squad had deserted him. What powers, what magic from our much-maligned Bafana Bafana coach.
But there will be no comic book adulation for Ephraim Mashaba here. Sadly, we cannot abide quite that level of hero-worship after putting three first half goals past the side beaten 7-1 by Ghana a week before.
Yes, Bra Shakes had to cope with a mass withdrawal of players just 48 hours before the game and yes, he had only one training session with this makeshift side before the CHAN qualifier.
But hold on a minute: Bafana played reasonably well with only one dose of Mashaba. Perhaps that's the way to go. Announce the squad a couple of hours before the game and send them out and let them play.
Experienced players who have played under Mashaba say the same as they did when Gordon Igesund was in charge: the training sessions are uninspiring, the team talks are less than adequate. No wonder they wanted to go back to their clubs.
A brief examination of why Orlando Pirates, Bidvest Wits, Orlando Pirates, Ajax Cape Town and Mamelodi Sundowns pulled 12 players out of the squad reveals a deeper malaise than simple club v country politics.
The root cause of last week’s Bafana crisis lies in Mashaba’s insecurity. He chose to keep his strongest squad together after the awful 0-0 home draw against Group M minnows Gambia in an effort to beat Angola in Tuesday’s friendly.
It worked, of course. After endless goalless minutes, Shaky Bafana won the friendly 2-1, ironically on an own goal, though Ayanda Patosi's cunning lob deserved better than that.
But when the players, already in camp for a week in Durban, moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg, everyone knew the big players were supposed to return to their clubs for pre-season, just as we knew Tokelo Rantie would not turn up for the Gambia game after his wedding.
South African football is guilty of poor communication, mismanagement and a first qualifier which will make qualifying for AFCON 2017 tougher than ever with Cameroon and Mauritania to come. We won’t even mention the scramble to find players on Friday and the fact that three of them turned up without passports and were thus rendered ineligible.
So it’s very hard to get too excited about a 3-0 win over Mauritania. Especially when the coach comes out afterwards and complains that his players “need to learn to unlock teams like this, they must be able to score against a side parking the bus”.
But of course, in order to do that, they have to have leadership and tactical guidance from the coach. And of that, there was little sign after a rousing first half in front of a worryingly empty Dobsonville Stadium, right in the heart of Soweto.
Yes, we can celebrate a rare romp against an island nation currently ranked 176 in the world, and as Mashaba rightly said: “We are not scared of them, we do not fear the away leg in two weeks.”
But throughout a week of crisis and turmoil, Mashaba and his media men have failed to explain the full facts of a crisis which left South Africa without a team barely a day before a match scheduled for months.
We were left with a stony silence from Danny Jordaan – the SAFA president who now doubles up as mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay – or PSL chairman Irvin Khoza. Nobody explained why the players returned to their clubs or why the planned use of “fringe players” for CHAN wasn’t implemented until the final hours before Saturday’s game.
In truth, with one point registered at AFCON and first hurdle failures in both the COSAFA Cup and Plate, our game is rapidly sliding backwards. The same old problems are cropping up but most are too scared to explain them away.
Yes, it was great to be 3-0 up at half-time – perhaps even better escape Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s ill-judged hype which we were subjected to twice during coverage of the Angola friendly.
And we can celebrate the emergence of two-goal Siphelele Ntshangase and Marc van Heerden - both still officially NFD players with Black Leopards and AmaZulu - as well as the enduring, unbeaten brilliance of captain Itumeleng Khune.
But the truth is, that 0-0 draw against Gambia at home was the important result for Bafana in a turbulent eight day period. Friendly wins and CHAN qualifiers are of no importance. Vision 2022 was what we were promised, but I see no vision at all. Just a blind scramble for available players at the last minute.
I hate being the Grinch who stole CHANmas, but that simply cannot be the way ahead.