Monday, 27 October 2014

CAPTAIN, OUR CAPTAIN Words on the tragic murder of Senzo Meyiwa

Senzo Meyiwa is gone. Shot dead by a coward on Sunday

  • SENZO MEYIWA is dead. There is no gentle way to say that.

    According to police, he was shot from behind while trying to protect Kelly Khumalo, the mother of his child, at her Vosloorus home at around 8pm on Sunday night.

    Hit in the chest, he was dead on arrival at Botshelong Hospital.

    Those stark facts have cast a terrible shadow over South Africa, a nation already infamous for horrendous murder rates and rampant crime.

    The football world remains in shock. Dean Furman in England, Darren Keet in Belgium and all the Bafana Bafana players were reeling as the news broke. Devastated was the common word.

    Captain, my captain. The man who saved two penalties at a blacked-out TP Mazembe, the goalkeeper who grabbed Itumeleng Khune's armband for Shakes Mashaba. Gone. 

    Unbeaten in his four AFCON qualifiers since Khune's injury, Senzo will never concede another goal.

    Shakes was at the hospital on Sunday night, desperately consoling hardened professional footballers trying to come to terms with the bleakest of news.

    He was 27. At the peak of his powers. On Saturday he was out there in the Orlando downpour with water up to his ankles. His farewell game? A crucial 4-1 win over Ajax Cape Town, coached by Roger de Sa, the man who gave him the Orlando Pirates No1 jersey which he rarely relinquished.

    It's the sudden nature of his departure, the utter shock which will not allow us to shrug off this particular crime statistic in a nation accustomed to horror.

    On the social networks, the South African police immediately offered a R150,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the three-man gang who perpetrated the act.

    Bring back the death penalty, roared the tweeting nation. The cowardly thug who shot Senzo in the back will not get away with culpable homicide and a short sentence. 

    We can be sure of that.

    As for the Soweto Derby on Saturday, it no longer matters. Perhaps 90,000 at Soccer City will turn South Africa's biggest game in to a memorial to the Pirates No 1.

    Perhaps it should be postponed. Few can think football after such a tragedy. Let alone play 90 minutes.

    There is no consolation. But I have this picture of Meyiwa turning up at the Pearly Gates on Sunday night.

    In my mind, he's got his gloves on. He looks St Peter squarely in the eyes after stopping his final shot on this mortal coil.

    And he says simply: "We will never let them win. Never."

    Sent via my BlackBerry from Vodacom - let your email find you!
Neal Collins
© 2014 Microsoft

Friday, 24 October 2014

The curious tale of Orlando Pirates: champions of self-destruction and bounce-backability

The happy couple: the awkward meeting of VV and Dr Khoza
In all my travels, all my reading, all my enthusiastic football watching on five continents, I have never come across a club quite like Orlando Pirates FC.

The Buccaneers.  The Sea Robbers. The Happy People. Love and Peace. Once, Always. Before former player Kaizer Motaung came along with his Chiefs, they were the biggest and the best in South Africa. And long after that, in the post-democracy dream year 1995, they became the nation’s once and only winners of the African Champions League, reaching the final again last year.

Ah, the history. Founded in 1937 with the skull and crossbones logo (though, anachronistically, I’m told Orlando Boys Club were styled after the 1940 Errol Flynn film “The Sea Hawk”), run by modern-day Pirate Irvin Khoza, a team of trebles and sinister forces, incredible cup runs and inexplicable exchanges of both players and coaches.

I've been asked to highlight the key problems many times on the social networks. Here it is in a sentence: Dr Khoza only appoints coaches who he can control, men desperate for a another crack at the big time. Amazingly, it's worked quite well at times.

Do that make them rebellious? Reckless? It’s not as if the Soweto suburb of Orlando derived its name from a famous maverick. That particular area of the South Western Townships was named after Edwin Orlando Leake, Mayor of Johannesburg from 1925 to 1926.

I wrote a history of Soweto for my friend Vuyo Dewati a few years ago and had a look at “Mr Orlando” and his past. He wasn’t a bad fellow for a chairman of “Native Affairs”. He built two-bedroomed houses for the working class in 1932 with the intention of creating “a model township”.  Judge the result for yourself: vibrant hub or matchbox houses, you see what you choose to see when you visit their recently refurbished stadium.

There are more glamorous ways of looking at it. In Italian, Orlando means “fair land” (in English, Roland), Shakespeare named one of his “As You Like It” characters the Italian way; the city in Florida also has its buccaneers and by coincidence Hollywood even made Orlando Bloom one of their Pirates of the Caribbean.

But it's not really about the name. It’s the club and those bitter but beautiful Bucca Bucca fans of the modern post-World Cup era which must be addressed here.

Under “Dr” Khoza, the black-and-white half of Soweto is both self-destructive and bounce-backable: when they won their first treble under Dutch legend Ruud Krol in 2011 instead of celebrating a true resurgency they chose to sack the boss and draft in Julio Cesar Leal, because his brother was involved with the Brazilians running  Bafana Bafana at the time.

Incredibly, with Peruvian youth coach Augusto Palacios taking over from Leal in March, 2012, they went on to win a second successive treble the very next season, despite huge upheaval, mainly thanks to the controversial return to South Africa of record-breaking striker Benni McCarthy, who had been thrown out of Premier League club West Ham for being overweight.

Winners of the South African championship NINE times (NPSL 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976, NSL 1994; PSL 2001, 2003, 2011, 2012), Palacios only lasted six months despite his triumphs, with Roger de Sa – thrown out by Wits and in a dreadful state personally – the shock replacement.

But De Sa also defied the odds despite the mysterious departure of McCarthy, who forgot to tell the chairman he was leaving. #rogerthat took the club to the African Champions League final and after leading the initial recovery from relegation he headed south to Ajax Cape Town, where he has achieved minor miracles this season with a bunch of kids.

A picture tells a thousand words: Vermecovic
Incredibly, Dr Khoza ignored all precedent again when he named De Sa’s replacement in February this year: unemployed Serbian Vladimir Vermecovic, sacked by arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs in 2012, was signed up and we waited for his work permit with some trepidation as caretaker Tinkler kept the ship afloat.

Under VV, a harsh, unforgiving coach, Pirates have continued the incredible cup exploits they began under De Sa. They have reached the final of the last FIVE knock-out competitions entered, winning the Nedbank Cup at the end of last season but losing the MTN8 at the last hurdle this term. Despite my best efforts I have NEVER heard of a club ANYWHERE reaching FIVE successive cup finals.

Despite huge criticism, VV took the side to second in the PSL before last week’s unfortunate defeat against Clive Barker’s Mpumalanga Black Aces. After his hard-fought 2-1 win, the delightful Barker, a sprightly 70, could be heard post-match saying to VV: "You're still a young man. You'll go all the way." Vlad appeared far more concerned about going away altogether.

Anybody would think the Buccaneers were heading for the relegation trap-door the way the fans reacted. #VVout was trending on twitter. His stubborn failure to select Kermit Erasmus and Lehlohonolo Majoro together in his starting line-up has proved hugely unpopular. Even the unbeatable Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa in goal took more flak than President Zuma threatening to build a second homestead.

Incredible stuff. Your side are SECOND in the league. They’ve reached FIVE consecutive cup finals. And the entire side were lambasted over a single result. Nobody escape the wave of ire from the Bucca Bucca fans. There were even threats to lynch VV and a constant stream of tweets purporting to herald his return to Belgrade.

But it’s not suprising. A quick review of Dr Khoza’s decisions explain all. Krol, Leal, Palacios, De Sa, caretaker Eric Tinkler and VV were all strange decisions. Huge risks. And we all know about the “sinister” selection process with Floyd Mbele and Screamer Tshabalala pulling the strings behind the scenes while the coach pulls his hair out.

Good youngsters leave, uncontracted veterans stay; Majoro’s arrival, having signed for SuperSport United, went uninvestigated while Tlou Segolela is scoring for the reserves despite a big salary, Lennox Bacela has been forgotten and the back-four failures are now compounded by Rooi Mahamutsa’s apparent fall from grace.

Anybody remember how Andile Jali left for Belgium? When the club put out a message saying he’d gone AWOL? Like I said, I’ve never known a club like Orlando Pirates.

The problem is, Pirates are run by the same man who runs the PSL and – until Danny Jordaan’s election as President – the South African Football Association. There is a perception Pirates can do as they like. Repeated fan problems are brushed under the carpet. Dr Khoza, who apparently now has a blood link to Bobby Motaung at Chiefs (as well as President Zuma), simply keeps the big sponsors backing the Soweto giants.

Khoza knows he can appoint who he wants to run the club, all will be fine. His son Nkosana, destined to take over a club that changed hands under strange circumstances in the early 1990s; is waiting in the wings as his father’s business empire grows in to other sectors and far-flung northern nations.

Let VV do as he wishes. If the noise gets too loud, he’ll find another coach. Dr Khoza is a gambler, a big wheel. Vodacom, Carling and ABSA aren’t really interested in who wins what, only the grand Soweto giants count.

As one of their former coaches (we dare not name him) told me: “Every coach Pirates appoint would resign after a month if it wasn’t for the fact the club is run by Dr Khoza. Orlando Pirates is the hottest hot seat you’ll ever sit in.”

It won’t change. Any critique of Dr Khoza is met with fury and even death threats on the social networks. Pirates might surge to the championship or slip down in to the doldrums under VV. It’s hard to tell given his unforgiving, tactically cautious approach which has seen the excellent Oupa Manyisa reduced to a shadow of his foraging self.

Either way, Orlando Pirates will be fine. The money will come pouring in. Whether the fans like it or not. They haven’t mattered for quite a while. And they haven't turned up in numbers for a some time.

A shorter version of this story will appear as my Neal and Pray column in

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Obscene or ridiculous: Why SAFA, CAF or FIFA must investigate Claude Le Roy's allegations against Shakes Mashaba

Veteran: AFCON winner Claude Le Roy has coached NINE national sides
SHAKES MASHABA’S honeymoon was fun. The 64-year-old’s intitial stanza was good for South African football, two wins and a draw in his opening three games sent a shiver of expectation through Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and the millions who long for an effective Bafana Bafana.

But the painful 0-0 draw against Congo last Wednesday – and subsequent allegations from their 68-year-old French coach Claude Le Roy – have cast something of a shadow over the great Shakes revival.

Though South Africa remain undefeated after four Group A AFCON qualifying games and surprise captain Senzo Meyiwa has yet to concede a goal, there is no disguising the paucity of ideas in front of 38,817 at the Peter Mokabe Stadium.

And what are we to make of the bizarre war of words between Mashaba and Le Roy, two of the grand old men of African football?

Initially, when Le Roy came out post-match and lashed Mashaba’s “shocking behaviour” it look like a storm in a tea-cup, a spat over Shakes saying Congo goalkeeper Chancel Massa wasn’t up to much.

But subsequent investigation reveals are far nastier aspect. Le Roy says Mashaba made an obscene gesture “which I cannot repeat in front of the ladies” – and he is demanding action over an alleged "grasping of the private parts".

An AFCON winner with Cameroon, Le Roy, emotional and upset after a game he felt his side might have won, said: “I’m shocked by the behaviour of the head coach of Bafana Bafana. At the end of the game, he showed me with his hand.

“Some people saw him do that. I couldn’t believe it was possible at our level, at international level.

“I can tell you it’s the first time in my life of coaching, I’ve been coaching for 34 years. We have a photo from one of our photographers. I think Fifa and Caf will receive this photo because from an educator (coach) you cannot accept that in terms of behaviour.”

At first, South Africans were happy to dismiss Le Roy’s ranting as the disappointment of a sad old man. But there’s more to it than that.

Leroy added: “It’s unbelievable. I saw that in a country where I was so proud to be today. I was in charge of the world team for the 89th birthday of president Nelson Mandela in Cape Town and it was one of the biggest moments in my career.

“When I see that, I cannot call this man a coach because he does not deserve it. Before the game, I was saying something very simple. Football is a school of humility. When you win, you have to be more humble than when you lose.

 “I’ve won a lot in my career, a lot of big competitions and I never said anything. In football you always have to stay humble, not to speak like the qualification was already there. Football is difficult.”

And Le Roy is not your average French journeyman, he has a real understanding of football, where he has coached for three decades everywhere from Cambridge to Cameroon, a veteran of NINE international coaching positions.

Denial: Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba
Delving in to a fascinating background, he said: “My love for Africa comes from my grandparents and my father, who was a warrior for Patrice Lumumba in the fight for independence. I know about the battle in South Africa. This country is something very important for me.”

Predictably Mashaba denied making an obscene gesture (allegedly looking at Le Roy and grabbing his own testicles), saying: “I don’t know what I did. I would have loved him to have said (to me) so that I could comment. I know nothing about that.

“I gave him a South African medal before the game and shook his hand. Let him come with the pictures and let’s see what he’s talking about.”

“Full-time, I never even came close to that man. I don’t know what he’s saying.”

We await photographic evidence with interest. At the very least, SAFA must investigate these allegations. If CAF and FIFA don’t do it first.

This article first appeared in earlier today.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Shocked by Shakes: the full text of Claude Leroy's astonishing verbal attack on South Africa's head coach Ephraim Mashaba

Shocked by Shakes: Congo boss Claude Leroy
CONGO coach Claude Leroy, the 68-year-old Frenchman, launched an astonishing verbal attack on Bafana Bafana boss Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba after last night’s 0-0 draw in Polokwane.

While 38,817 Limpopo fans suffered a rainy night and a mediocre AFCON qualifier, Leroy – a veteran of EIGHT international coaching jobs – saved the real fireworks until AFTER the whistle.

Angered by Mashaba’s pre-match comments at Pointe-Noire on Saturday, he said: “We know we are not a huge team, a big team. But we are a team of quality, I'm proud of my players, their behaviour. Always perfect. They never complain. That’s why I’m so disappointed with the behaviour (of Mashaba).

“I cannot tell you that the man in charge of Bafana Bafana is a coach because of what he did to me. I will speak next week (to FIFA) and see if they consider something. When you are a coach you are an educator. You cannot have such terrible behaviour. I am shocked with his behaviour.

“I was never sacked in 34 years as a coach. Never had a problem with anybody. Respect the referee, when players fall down, tell them to get up. I respect the people who love football.

“When I see the behaviour of the man in charge of Bafana Bafana… I’m very happy with the players of South Africa, they are fair. They won at Pointe Noire, we were unlucky. But we will fight now to try and finish Group A in second place.

“We have to play Nigeria at home, play Sudan away. A draw was enough tonight. You have a lot of good players in Bafana Bafana. It’s a pleasure to work with my guys, their behaviour is perfect, they never complain.

“Okay (long pause) maybe I’ll see you at the next Cup of Nations!”

Leroy, who has coached from Malaysia to Cambridge, was winding up for his attack on Mashaba long before the post-match interview last night.

After Mashaba's attack on his goalkeeper Chancel Massa before Bafana's 2-0 win at Pointe Noire on Saturday, the Frenchman said: “The other coach said our goalkeeper is not very good, and that they know how to beat Congo, because if we do not score in the first 10 minutes, we do not do anything.

“That is completely stupid, because we didn’t score [in the first 10 minutes] against Nigeria, they scored the first goal and we went on to win 3-2 in Calabar.

“I don’t like it when coaches say a lot of things. It is important to talk to journalists before a game and to keep a lot of humility. Football is a school of humility.”

“I respect everybody from the bench and never said one word about their coach. Especially a coach who is new at the highest level after a long time. He must keep his humility.”

Mashaba was quoted as saying: “I don’t want to say a lot of things but what I have noticed is that their goalkeeper is not a good goalkeeper, he is not a strong goalkeeper. Take shots from all range, I think it will pay us back.”

 Will be adding further details to this as soon as possible

The great Euro2016 qualifying failure: SuperSport explain their embarrassing lack of live coverage

What we didn't see: O'Shea's late leveller for Ireland in Germany
Without only a brief comment, here's SuperSport communications manager Clinton van der Berg's response to my twitters last night, lamenting their lack of Euro2016 qualifying coverage on ANY of their multiple channels.
While Cristiano Ronaldo was scoring a last-minute winner to engineer Portugal's first win of the tournament and the Republic of Ireland's John O'Shea scored a late, late 94th minute equaliser against ailing World Champions Germany, SuperSport viewers were left in the dark once more without any explanation for the absence of coverage.

With no other high-profile live football on, their continued black-out of European football seemed inexplicable, after years of top rate coverage. Repeated pleas for a coherent explanation were met with a stony silence from @SuperSportTV and the usually responsive twitter account of my erstwhile pal Docky Dockrat.

Today I received a numbers of calls from Clinton, sports editor when I wrote British football for the Johannesburg Sunday Times a decade ago. The conversation was amicable. Clint said he had been met by "a queue of people" when he arrived at work talking about my twitters. I understood my frustrations but explained the Euro qualifiers had been offered "as a bundle" at considerable cost. Conditions had changed without warning, he said. After much deliberating, the company decided not to carry live coverage of the qualification rounds, though they will be covering the finals tournament itself.

I told him without knowing the cost of coverage, I was unable to judge whether SuperSport had taken a fair decision on the Euro qualifiers. I welcome the fuller coverage of AFCON qualifiers, but questioned the lack of live international football for which SuperSport has become famous continent-wide. SuperSport carries a lot of live cricket and rugby at varying levels, but for top level football to miss out seems unacceptable given substantial subscription charges.

I pointed out European visitors are always impressed by Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga coverage in South Africa - particularly the number of live games on a Saturday afternoon - but that failing to show live coverage of teams like England, Scotland, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Germany and Holland left a sour taste even here, at the tip of Africa.

Clint said he had an explanation and sent me this response via email... judge for yourself.
Hi Neal,

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to put across SuperSport’s side of things.
As I explained, SuperSport endeavours at all times to acquire top-quality content. We negotiated in good faith but had to walk away when the numbers got out of hand.
Our general statement follows.



Description: Description: Description: Description: SuperSport Logo

Clinton van der Berg 
Communications Manager
E: | W:
A: World of Champions Building | 137 Bram Fischer Drive | Randburg | 2194 | South Africa

SuperSport and football rights

SuperSport proudly broadcasts more football showcasing the world’s most popular leagues than any other broadcaster.
In the 2013/14 season this included:

380 Barclays Premiership games (250 live);
133 PSL, plus MTN8 (nine), Telkom Cup (12) and Nedbank Cup (17) matches;
115 Champions League matches;
85 Europa League matches;
175 La Liga matches; 
150 Serie A matches;
130 Bundesliga matches.
This volume and quality account for SuperSport’s status as the game’s preeminent broadcaster.
SuperSport also broadcasts the FIFA World Cup and the Euro competitions, the next edition which will be held in 2016.
SuperSport has also acquired the rights to friendly matches played by World Cup champions Germany, Holland and Brazil for the next three years and holds rights to the friendlies of various other major football nations.
SuperSport has recently decided to renew focus on African football. For the first time, SuperSport will be broadcasting a bloc of 50 Afcon qualifiers, plus the African Women’s Championship from Namibia featuring South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Algeria, Ghana and Namibia. It begins this weekend.
This is in addition to SuperSport’s broadcast of all CAF football properties, including Afcon (the next edition which will be held in Morocco early in 2015) and the African Nations Championship (CHAN).
What’s more, the ongoing MultiChoice Diski Challenge will enjoy 41 live match broadcasts. The National First Division had eight live broadcasts in the recent season while there were 18 live broadcasts of SA Varsity Football
In all, 843 hours of football action was broadcast on SuperSport in 2013/14. Back to back, it would have taken 35 days to watch it all non-stop.
A typical recent week (August 13-20, 2014) saw 50 live games broadcast on SuperSport in 157 hours.
The current season will see SuperSport broadcast 1661 matches for a total duration of 2491 hours. This incorporates 27 different leagues and championships – more than any other broadcaster.
Live talk programming amounts to three hours per day on week days with an additional fan show on Saturday and Sunday nights for one hour following live matches.
SuperSport has not concluded acceptable commercial terms in a competitive market in respect of broadcast rights to UEFA qualifiers. We are, however, the only pay broadcaster which will broadcast the actual Euro 2016 tournament.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The magical madness of King Shakes Mashaba: see it for youself in Polokwane on Wednesday

Fairy-tale characters: scorers Rantie and Ndulula
THIS morning we wake up to a brave new world in football-speaking South Africa. Congo have renamed their second city Three-Pointe-Noire, Bafana Bafana are top of their AFCON qualifying group and Ephraim "Shakes" Mashaba is being widely suggested as a future president.

Yesterday's 2-0 win has firmly re-established the reputation of our game, just as Orlando Pirates surge to the African Champions League final last year helped restore the pride in our diski.

But when it comes to analysis, how do we explain Mashaba's record of three games, two wins, one draw. How can we possibly unpack a situation which sees AFCON champions Nigeria bottom of the group with one point and much-maligned Bafana top with SEVEN... and NO GOALS CONCEDED.

Attempting to write my Neal and Pray column for today I found myself constantly coming up against logic as I attempted to reveal Mashaba's genius.

Our 64-year-old coach, who has only ever worked within the borders of South Africa (you have to included Swaziland at this point) came up against a 66-year-old called Claude LeRoy (who has enjoyed NINE international hot-seats) and utterly confounded the Frenchman, who had gone to Nigeria and WON in Congo's opening qualifier.

It all makes no sense. As SAFA President Danny Jordaan said at the end of July when Shakes was selected to replace Gordon Igesund: "Shakes was the cheapest option, yes, but cost was never taken in to account."

With Carlos Queiroz and Frank Rijkaard asking for figures upwards of R12m a year to run Bafana, Shakes took the job while he was embroiled in getting our Under 20 AmaJitas to their own African
Fine finish: Rantie's goal at Pointe-Noire
See vine HERE:
Youth Championship next year. It was a ridiculous scenario. He was off travelling up north while simultaneously trying to prepare the nation for a qualifying group featuring Steve Keshi's rampant Nigeria, dangerous Sudan and Rwanda... who were ultimately replaced by Congo after fielding an ineligible player.

Yet from this chaos, our AmaJitas beat Cameroon to qualify for their African Youth Championship and, as history now shows, he has guided the seniors to an almost impregnable position atop Group A despite that distraction.

It's utterly inexplicable. No international coach starts his task with another job to complete. No international coach goes in to continental qualifying not knowing much about how his guys are doin overseas. No international coach can be expected to succeed when he's been involved with kids and Swazis over the past decade after an embarrassing departure from the hot-seat ten years ago.

But Shakes has done all that. And more. He just doesn't care for logic. Look at Saturday's incredible selection decisions, a long list of brave but apparently crazy options.

Giving 17-year-old Rivaldo Coetzee his record-breaking debut in a place like Pointe-Noire was madness. Especially when you consider Coetzee is hardly a first-team regular at Ajax Cape Town. And then throw in the fact that he chose to break-up the all-conquering centre-back pairing of Tefu Mashamaite and Tower Mothoho, who have helped Kaizer Chiefs to a 12-match winning streak to start the season.

On your bike: Ndulula's acrobatic opener
See vine HERE:
In midfield, he discarded Ayanda Patosi and Kamahelo Makotjo but opted to fly Thulani Serero over from Ajax Amsterdam. Worse, he told Makotjo he "looked heavy" after making the FC Twente midfielder travel to Sudan and Cape Town last time out without a minute on the park.

Up front, Shakes appeared to have yielded to popular pressure, calling Orlando Pirates top scorer Kermit Erasmus in to the squad. And then what does he do? He leaves Kermit on the bench. He picks Bongani Ndulula, a striker who has done little to lift Amazulu off the foot off the PSL. And, worse, he adds goal-free Tokelo Rantie who can't make the starting line-up at English second-tier hopefuls Bournemouth.

But of course, it's in goal where Shakes has made his bravest decision. Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa had travelled to these parts before. Nobody will forget his two penalty saves against TP Mazembe nearly two years ago, though few were allowed to see it as the television coverage was blacked out in Lumbubashe in neighbouring DRC.

To pick Meyiwa, weak on crosses and big on lurid front page headlines, was utter madness. To make him captain for the injured Kaizer Chiefs hero Itumeleng Khune was UNBELIEVABLE.

But as I have said on twitter from the start. SHAKES KNOWS BEST. Meyiwa proved unbeatable, I counted SIX good saves, one a brilliant bit of game reading when the Congolese took a tricky quick free kick.

In midfield, Dean Furman, plying his trade with lowly Doncaster in England, was magnificent next to Serero, Mandla Masango and Belgium based Andile Jali. And then came those two quick goals after half-time from Ndulula and Rantie.

Fairy-tale stuff. I can't explain it. Here's Shakes' attempt, quotes direct from SAFA after the game:

“I am happy to have beaten Congo for the second time. The first time I was a stand-in coach. We defeated them one nil, today it was two and I hope the next time it will be three. But it shows there is some improvement from the coaches, we are getting somewhere.

“It also shows we are on track with our vision. Sudan and Congo are no pushovers, and we lacked a bit of luck to defeat Nigeria. But things are working well. If you look at the personnel we brought in, they looked good.

"Youngster Rivaldo (Coetzee) was outstanding, Letsholonyane gave us what we wanted. Going forward we will bring in one or two more players because we are building a new side and I hope it will bring more results. Should we qualify for Morocco then we will test the strength of the squad at the tournament, and once we are done there we look forward to preparing for 2018 World Cup.

“It’s a combination of things because when you play good football without scoring it doesn’t help, but you can also play bad and get three points. But here we have combined the two because the boys are playing good football, it’s been quite a while since I last saw our team playing such good football. They are beaming with confidence as individuals, but the combination of the players means we are gradually achieving our goals."

He says it well, does Shakes. But it still doesn't explain his uncanny ability to take a bunch of footballers and make them play like their shorts are on fire.

On Wednesday evening at the new Peter Mokabe Stadium in Polokwane, South Africa gets the chance to see this Mashaba magical madness for themselves when the Congo fly in for the return game. Victory will just about ensure qualification with Sudan at home to come.

I suggest, very strongly, you get there if you can.

Vines thanks to Soccer Laduma's Joe Crann @yeswecrann

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Kaizer Chiefs and the perfect start: Baxter refuses to get carried away and the AmaKhosi refuse to turn up in numbers

KEY ROLE: Willard Katsande
WHILE everybody is scrabbling about trying to find out just how long South Africa’s perfect start to a season extends, Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter is quietly getting on with what could be a sensationally good third term at Naturena.

Saturday’s workmanlike 1-0 win over Maritzburg United was nothing to marvel at in isolation. Having won the MTN8 without conceding a goal, the Telkom KO campaign is now underway. Add that to their seven wins to start the PSL season and you come up with remarkable statistics: 12 wins, two goals conceded, three goalkeepers used.

That’s when you start to get excited, along with the estimated 15 million AmaKhosi who wander the streets of South Africa, occasionally attending Kaizer Chiefs matches – far too rarely if you ask me. A team in this sort of form demands a HUGE following.

Baxter, heavily criticised on the social networks for dropping MTN8 final Man of the Match Brilliant Khuzwayo and sticking young Reyaad Pieterse in goal for the injured Itumeleng Khune, appears to know exactly what he’s doing.

This week, he could have all three custodians back in training. Up front, he perseveres with the slightly uncomfortable Kingston Nkatha situation, while relishing the return of back-from-surgery Bernard Parker, who scored the only goal on Saturday.

In midfield, he can fiddle while the others burn: either of the Georges, Lebese or Maluleka; Reneilwe Yeye Letsholonwane, Mandla Masango, Simphiwe Tshabalala are all options. Regular readers of this column will know all about the staggering consistency of defensive midfielder Willard Katsande, the key to it all.

With a perfect start building to something of a phenomenon, Baxter stoically refuses to celebrate. “It was okay. We played well for half-an-hour. But we can do better.”

The Wolverhampton-born coach has been thrown to the Wolves before. After winning the title in his first season – no other foreign coach has managed that – the long unbeaten record last season fell apart and Mamelodi Sundowns’ incredible depth saw they surge away with the PSL championship.

Not this time. Baxter is carefully grooming new players, forging a larger squad as the African Champions League looms. He knows, after years in far flung corners of the football-speaking globe, that mistakes can be excused. But repeating last year’s blunder just isn’t an option. He cannot afford another end-of-season collapse.

“I’ve got two full squads in training,” Baxter told me, “We can mix and match this season. We might need to. We aren’t there yet, but we are getting there.”

As Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns progressed to the Telkom KO quarter-finals with a similar lack of panache (Ajax Cape Town may just be the early favourites for this particular piece of silverware, though coach Roger De Sa returns to Pirates in a tough quarter-final in Orlando), Baxter won’t be troubled by those who say the runaway train is about to derail. He’ll accept a draw or even a defeat over the next few weeks. That’s football. Chiefs are not Invincibles… yet.

The point is, Baxter has enlarged his squad. He has set out his stall while staying well ahead of his big-spending rivals. Sky-scraping centre-backs Tefu Mashamaite, Morgan Gould and Tower Mathoho can launder their clean sheets in front of any one of the three goalkeepers. Katsande, relying more and more on interceptions and less on rock-hard tackling, holds the midfield together no matter who surrounds him. Bernard Parker – with Nkatha and the soon-to-return Katlego “Killer” Mphela – can get the goals necessary to maintain their strong start.

If they fail, impressive reserve goal-getter Hendrick Ekstein, 23, is pushing hard or a place in the first team squad.

Right now, Kaizer Chiefs are showing the kind of form any side in the world would envy… while their coach is preparing for a long, long season. The only thing I fail to understand is this: why aren’t the mighty AmaKhosi turning up in their thousands to see this footballing phenomenon?

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Royal Marang Hotel: where England stayed and where Bafana Bafana are RIGHT NOW

Here it is, my World Cup 2010 video of the brand new Marang Hotel in Boshoek. England stayed there for the tournament in South Africa and Shakes Mashaba's Bafana Bafana are there this week as they prepare to fly out for their crucial AFCON 2015 qualifier against Congo at Pointe Noire.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Jabulani Shongwe's CRACKER for Wits against Moroka Swallows tonight

Here it is, Jabulani Shongwe's curling beauty for Bidvest Wits tonight, courtesy of SuperSport... the first goal in an emphatic 3-0 Telkom KO first round triumph over Moroka Swallows on a chilly spring night at Milpark.

Hit from distance on the run, Birds goalkeeper Sage Stephens had no chance as Shongwe launched in to a huge celebratory routine.

But the top class goals didn't end there. Buhle Mkhwanazi scored a neat near-post header to register his first goal as a professional following his summer move from AmaTuks and Vincent Pule added a lovely far post volley from Sameehg Doutie's perfect cross.