|Utter banker: Mashaba in his Nedbank KeYona gear|
SAFA's head of communications Dominic Chimhavi, when asked about the national coach's decision to coach the amateurs less than 24 hours after the Nouakchott humiliation, said: "The Nedbank Keyona match is something we must definitely look at . It is NOT a SAFA-sanctioned event."
Incredibly, Mashaba took charge of Nedbank XI in their 2-0 defeat against Downs without SAFA's permission and insisted: "It was a day off for Bafana." He appeared entirely unfazed by his unsanctioned "second job" where his select side have yet to score a goal against the annual Nedbank Cup winners.
Further credibility was lost when Mashaba came out wearing his Bafana mantle and insisting: "We still have a 50-50 chance of qualifying for AFCON 2017" after seeing his side manage just one point against Group M minnows Gambia (0-0 at home) and Mauritania.
It appears Mashaba is NOT AWARE that only the group leaders qualify by right for AFCON next year in Gabon. Only the best runner-up from the 13 groups will join them. If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable.
Bafana go in to their next two qualifiers against perfect group leaders Cameroon - who have NEVER lost a home qualifier in 30 years of African Nations Cup action - hoping to make up a FIVE-POINT deficit after the Indomitable Lions won 1-0 in Gambia on Sunday.
With Senegal to come tomorrow night in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at the Orlando Stadium, Mashaba insists: "We need to bounce back by scoring goals and winning, nothing else. I think winning the game tomorrow will change the mood. I was also happy that the mood was vibrant this morning playing on a field divided into three and combinations were there.”
Those are typical words from Mashaba, who has always insisted: "I'm doing a good job" in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The truth is, a friendly win over an under-strength Senegal means NOTHING.
Before South Africa’s disastrous 3-1 defeat in Mauritania on Saturday, he told us "We will win this one" and the nation was left reeling once more by perhaps the most inept, passionless performance yet from our national team.
On their own, I wouldn’t attack our BafanaBafana coach for his ridiculous outbursts of optimism. But taken in conjunction with his outpourings before AFCON, the home-based COSAFA Cup and his promise that his ailing side would top the FIFA rankings and win the World Cup, it has to stop.
Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba was looking for his 23rd win in charge of Bafana in Nouakchott, which would have pushed him beyond AFCON-winner Clive Barker at the top of the all-time rankings.
But from the moment we kicked-off in a nation infamous for being the world’s leading owner of slaves, the world’s 72nd best nation were struggling against a side ranked 114.
Best not even discuss captain Itumeleng Khune’s blunder for the early goal, a harmless long-distance free-kick which slipped through his hands.
And it’s no good lamenting the red card given to Platinum Stars debutant Siyabonga Zulu, the left-back cut down his opponent when through on goal. He had to go.
But in truth neither of those match-changing incidents are the fault of our controversial head coach, who was leaping about for Nedbank in the KeYona Cup match without a care in the world on Sunday.
Mashaba’s problems are many and varied, with one point in Group M after two games against the “minnows” just one of his major worries.
When he took the job, the man SAFA president Danny Jordaan described as “the cheapest option” sent South Africa roaring to AFCON qualification with some panache, though it might be argued ousted Nigeria were hardly at their strongest.
But since then, with one point earned in Equatorial Guinea with three goalkeepers and those COSAFA Cup penalty shoot-out defeats against Botswana and Malawi, things have dropped off alarmingly.
If you include the final AFCON 2014 qualifier against Nigeria, a 2-2 draw, Mashaba’s Bafana have not won a competitive match for eight games, unless you count the CHAN qualifiers against not-so-mighty Mauritius.
And Mashaba has veered away from Jordan’s “Vision2022” concept, so carefully articulated, and gone for older, allegedly wiser heads as his team crumbles.
The one youngster he has stuck with, Ajax Cape Town centre-back Rivaldo Coetzee, was ruthless exposed by Mauritania’s 2nd and 3rd goals; two excellent finishes which involved more than a touch of poor defending in front of Khune.
We could talk about Mashaba’s selection process - all too often he goes for players who are not even playing for their clubs, mostly the clients of two major South African agents - and we could debate his rotation of both goalkeepers and captains.
We could talk about his strange substitutions - on Saturday he put on a second left back instead of a midfielder in the 52nd minute and pulled off Dean Furman instead of the ineffective Andile Jalie in the 62nd.
But ultimately the problem for Mashaba is this: South Africa after their initial success under his latest spell no longer look inspired. They were insipid from the kick-off in Nouakchott, they lacked urgency and played like a bunch of strangers who had never met.
In short, it looks like Mashaba has, to use a cliche, “lost the dressing-room”. His team-talks are nonsensical (I cannot reveal the two sources for this suggestion), his tactical nous non-existent and his ability to switch to Plan B has yet to be witnessed.
With Kaizer Chiefs former coach Stuart Baxter currently on the market after a chaotic two-match spell in Turkey, Mashaba should be looking over his shoulder. And with only one team assured of progress from Group M, things are already looking bleak.
But here’s the problem. SAFA net president Jordaan is embroiled in political affairs as the mayor of troubled Port Elizabeth. Neil Tovey has been appointed Technical Director but it’s clear Mashaba wants him nowhere near his team.
And the man who has never won a trophy or coached a club side has no mandate. Nothing was said as he tore up the Vision2022 blueprint, nothing was said when he banned May Mahlangu and appeared to punish Kermit Erasmus for a tweet while ignoring Tokelo Rantie’s no-show for the awful home draw against Gambia.
Nobody appears to be able to tell Mashaba what to do. His scouting before Mauritania consisted of “trying to search for information” and “they lost a tight game against Cameroon”. Though they played on an artificial surface, Bafana trained on turf before the game.
After half-time, the players emerged waving their hands about, pointing, gesticulating as they tried to interpret Mashaba’s half-time team-talk.
There was no pattern to Bafana’s play, precious little in the way of goal attempts other than Thamsanqa Gabuza’s brave header for South Africa’s goal.
Since he picked his controversial AFCON squad at the start of the year, Mashaba has done little right. Friendlies apart, he has failed repeatedly to produce results as South Africa slide down the FIFA rankings.
But with a friendly against an under-strength, last-minute Senegal at Orlando tonight, Mashaba knows there is no threat to his reign. A win in the Mandela Challenge will have his yes-men whooping once more.
And nothing will be done to restore this nation’s tattered football reputation.