Saturday, 17 September 2016

WHO DO WE BELIEVE? SAFA or the BBC: Is Shakes Mashaba a dead boss walking?

SUITS YOU: Mashaba on Saturday with SAFA's Mumble
WITH time running out before the start of Africa's 2018 World Cup qualifiers next month, South African football remains in limbo, caught between #shakyin, #shakygone and #shakyout.

Amid the bickering between shaky SAFA and the highly respected BBC Sports website on Saturday, we can narrow the chaotic argument over Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba’s future down to three alternatives.

1 Shaky could be fired on Wednesday night by the SAFA technical committee. This is the TRUTH according to the BBC’s African football correspondent Osasu Obayiuwana, who quotes a Saturday morning conversation with SAFA president Danny Jordaan.

2 Mashaba will stay on for the World Cup qualifiers despite his disastrous AFCON 2017 qualifying campaign which left South Africa third in Group M. This is the TRUTH according to SAFA communications chief Dominic Chimhavi, who says Shakes must be left to “complete his mandate” by qualifying for Russia 2018.

3 The national head coach will be fired if he fails to manage four points against Burkina Faso on October 8 and Group D favourites Senegal on November 7. This appears to be the compromise option suggested by those who fear a civil war between Jordaan and the Shaky faction at SAFA.

There is no official line on Mashaba’s future, despite Jordaan saying after the draw against Mauritania last month: “I think it’s a disappointing performance. This must be the end of the journey, not the beginning, because this cannot lead us into the World Cup campaign, where we will play the giants of the African continent.”

After the friendly win over Egypt four days later, Jordaan went silent despite reports he had a replacement lined up for Mashaba, the man he called “our cheapest option” on the day of his appointment in July 2016.

But on Saturday morning, Osasu Obayiuwana dropped a series of devastating tweets followed by a story on the BBC African Football website suggesting Mashaba’s turbulent, head-rubbing reign was indeed over.

He quoted Jordaan saying: "Mashaba just has to go. The outcry is too much. The SAFA exco will discuss this matter on Wednesday.

"In the case of non-performance, he is entltled to a pay-off of 3 months wages.

 "We have to get a new coach in place, before our opening World Cup qualifier. This is very important.”

SAFA’s Chimhavi exploded in to action. He called me to insist “the Nigerian is being malicious” and said I had to back him as I had “so many twitter followers”, he asked me to call him “a SAFA spokesman”.

But that was difficult. On Twitter, the excitable Chimhavi said: "What you are saying is ill-advised, wrong and malicious. IT'S NOT TRUE” and he said Osasu was “digging his own grave”.

But Mr Obayiuwana calmly responded with the EXACT time of his interview with Jordaan, and how long it took (6mins and 28secs). He told Chimhavi to take his complaint directly to the BBC. He asked: “Are you saying I manufactured the convo?”

While that battle rages on, long-suffering South African football fans remain in the dark. Chimhavi insists Mashaba will name the Bafana squad for the trip to Burkina Faso as usual and that SAFA will not discuss his future this week.

Chimhavi is nothing if not enthusiastic. He tweeted: “Statement by sensationalist Nigerian journalist is malicious and incorrect. I'm with Mashaba & SAFA CEO as we speak.”

While Jordaan, who called football “just a hobby” when he went off to lose the ANC mayorship at Nelson Mandela Bay, replied to my asking if Mashaba was gone with one word: “No.”

The truth, from where I sit, has to be influenced by this message from Osasu: “Neal, I stand by every word I have written.” Our debate, both openly on twitter and via direct messages, clearly indicates he spoke to Jordaan.

And as we head towards the World Cup qualifiers, SAFA remains in chaos. The president is directly contradicted by his communications director. Chimhavi denies Mashaba is a dead boss walking.

Yet I know of at least one coach claiming he has been offered the Bafana Bafana job. And another, foreign-based, who is in contact with somebody at SAFA about the role.

Somebody, please. Save us from SAFA. Nobody wants another World Cup qualifying failure.


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