Monday, 7 November 2016

MASHABA STANDS AT THE CROSS-ROADS: South Africa v Senegal will make or break Shaky

Lars Veldwijk, born in Holland,
sets foot in South Africa for the
first time today before joining
Dean Furman and Bafana Bafana
for Saturday's World Cup clash
against Senegal in Polokwane
DANNY JORDAAN and his national coach Ephraim Mashaba stand at a cross-roads on Saturday night. When Bafana Bafana face Senegal in Polokwane, one sign-post will read “Vision 2022 Avenue”, the other simply “Exit Road”.

It is, quite simply, Mashaba's glorious chance for redemption. Win, and be a hero. Lose (or draw) and Shaky is GONE.

Shakes, who has been shaky for sometime now, has long ignored the 86-page South African Technical master plan put forward by newly elected SAFA president Jordaan in October 2013. But for much of that time, it didn’t matter: Mayor Jordaan was off trying to save Nelson Mandela Bay for his beloved ANC.

During his lengthy absence from the hot-seat at SAFA House Jordaan famously said football was “just a hobby” and that he had “never earned a penny” from the job, despite evidence of an R80,000 honorarium just last year.

But once Jordaan had seen a man called Athol usurp him in the Eastern Cape, he came back with a bang, carrying the weighty Vision 2022 guide-lines like stone tablets from his political burning bush.

Having said “this cannot be the beginning it must be the end” after a final humiliating draw against Mauritania in AFCON 2017 Group M and having told BBC Africa’s correspondent “Mashaba cannot go on, the outcry is too great”, Jordaan finally made his Shaky frustrations clear on October 13.

And yes, the old Vision 2022 was at the heart of it. No matter than Mashaba continues to pick players who are not good enough for their club teams. Or that he got his son Thabo, a restaurant owner, to answer questions at a SAFA press confernce.

It was the dreaded Vision 2022 on the mind of Jordaan. He explained that Mashaba, after two years at the helm of South African football, had not fulfilled two of the major requirements of our nation’s footballing master-plan.

1 Mashaba was asked to provide a dossier on all South Africa’s foreign stars. Travel was required, and extensive research. Jordaan fumed: “We have a lot of overseas-based South African players that we don’t know much about and they are playing good football for their respective teams.”

2 Shaky was required to produce 24 names suitable for Qatar in 2022. This would consist of 8 players aged Under 17, Under 20 and Under 23. Again no progress: “He knows I want that list but I have not received it.”

Jordaan fumes: “This is what I’ve asked for and until today neither have been delivered. I asked him to give me a pool of players that we need to work on for our Vision 2022. The second plan was for him to go and assess players who are playing overseas.

“Neither of these programmes have landed on my desk yet, and I asked for them a long time ago.

“I believe these programmes are key elements to take Banana forward. I still want them and he knows it. If this doesn’t happen, I cannot be responsible for what happens.”

Typically, there was no response for Mashaba, other than to pick another squad laced with players who will be approaching 40 when the 2022 World Cup comes around. 

While Kamolhelo Mokotjo at FC Twente has just won Player of the Week, NONE of the foreign contingent picked by Mashaba - Andile Jali, Ayanda Patosi, Veldwijk, Thalani Serero and May Mahlangu - actually played for their clubs sides last weekend.

As for Vision 2022, Mashaba prefers to look for experience. Some of his domestic selections are understandable. 30-somethings Itumeleng Khune and the recalled Daine Klate are potential match-winners against a Senegal side packed with stars who perform every week in Europe. Keeper Khune has even started taking free-kicks around the opposition box for Kaizer Chiefs, perhaps he will argue over who takes with dead-eye Klate on Saturday.

Given Mashaba’s Afcon 2017 failure - Bafana finished third in Group M behind Cameroon and Mauritania - a significant improvement will be required to top World Cup 2018 Group D where the going is a lot tougher.

The heart-breaking 1-1 draw against Burkina Faso led to reports that Jordaan already had Mashaba’s replacement lined up - former England boss Roy Hodgson was mentioned along with the usual suspects - but from deep within the bowels of SAFA House, my source informs me Mashaba has allies.

Jordaan's blustering was ignored and publicly refuted. The compromise plan was hatched before the World Cup campaign began: if Mashaba could manage four points from his first two qualifiers, he would remain in place and Vision 2022 would have to take a back seat.

But if that four point target is not reached - in other words if Bafana don’t beat Senegal at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday evening - Mashaba will be GONE.

Worryingly, that would mean the new coach taking over for the two matches against Cape Verde with Vision 2022 strapped firmly to his back and Jordaan cracking the whip.

For that reason alone, we must pray for Mashaba’s success. A win over a Les Lions de la Teranga squad featuring just one local player plus the likes of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Lazio’s Diao Balde Keith - not to mention Stoke City’s recalled Mame Biram Diouf - will change everything for Mashaba.

With just one competitive win (over minnows Gambia) in 10 Afcon games since the 2-2 draw with Nigeria at the end of 2014, it’s a tall order. Mashaba can point to the early World Cup qualifying wins over Angola back in November 2015 as a hopeful sign, and a current unbeaten run of 13 games including friendlies and COSAFA clashes since the unexpected 3-1 defeat in Mauritania.

But Senegal's lions are not pussy cats. Already ahead of Algeria (35), only Afcon champions Ivory Coast (31) are above them (32) on the FIFA rankings, in 2012 they were languishing in 77th spot.

Mashaba has allowed South Africa to slip to 62nd on the rankings - our average since 1992 is 51st  — and the 12th best team in Africa can hardly expect to join the top five for the trip to Russia.

Mashaba says: "I think we have a team to stop Senegal. If you look at the players who played against Burkina Faso, their commitment was very high.”

But then in June, when the World Cup draw was made, he famously said: ““We could not have asked for a kinder draw. I am happy, but that does not mean it is going to be easy.”

The dry words of Vision 2022 do not allow for such self-delusion. They call for development, focus and discipline. The head-stroking, flashy-dressing Mashaba knows: it’s win or bust next week.

Though it looks a long shot, we can only pray for success on Saturday.



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