Saturday, 31 October 2015

SOWETO DERBY: Tinkler reprieved... Komphela falls in to the Bobby trap

CHIEF CONCERN: Eric Tinkler joins in the Pirates celebrations on Saturday
JUST when you thought it was safe to write off South Africa’s greatest footballing rivalry, along comes a clash like Saturday’s fascinating four-goal affair at Soccer City.

The re-christened FNB Stadium wasn’t quite packed to the rafters, the hype wasn’t really there, Halloween made Kaizer Chiefs look like pumpkins and the first 20 minutes were, frankly, drivel.

But once Siya Sangweni had crushed stand-in centre-back Ivan Bukenya to pressure Itumeleng Khune in to a parry, Issa “Super” Sarr snapped up the rebound and the Soweto Derby finally had meaning again.

For Eric Tinkler, who works without a contract like the eternal caretaker, Tower Mathoho’s equaliser must have been like a dagger to the heart. A free header, his experienced defenders caught napping, 1-1 and all that hard work undone.

But there was no doubt who was dominant. Before the game, few game Tinkler’s men any chance against Chiefs, who would have gone top of the PSL for a couple of hours with a win. But they were dreadful on Saturday.

Despite inspiring the Buccaneers to the CAF Confederations Cup final with a win over might Al Ahly of Egypt, Tinkler has never had the whole-hearted support of the Ghost, even on Halloween.

Before the game, the nuggety midfielder who carved out a name for himself at the top level in Europe - which is more than any Bafana Bafana player can say these days - admitted he was under huge pressure.

With Screamer Tshabalala screaming and chairman Irvin Khoza apparently not interested, Tinkler couldn’t even find a willing volunteer for the captain’s armband after another morale sapping defeat against “sister club” Golden Arrows in midweek.

But somehow, even after Tower’s towering equaliser, Pirates fought their way back. As I said on radio and the social networks in the build-up, the Sea Robbers have become “big game hunters” in an endless season complicated by their continental crusade.

With only one win in their previous seven domestically, it was Ayanda Gcaba, once a promising rugby player, who rose to make it 2-1. And after fabulous work from Kermit Erasmus, Thami Gabuza was on hand to score the third and kill the game.

Tinkler, who had failed in both his previous efforts to usurp his arch-rivals, grinned afterwards: “For me, this was expected. I know what these lads can produce, and they’ve done it today. I’m very, very proud of them.

“Our tactical strategy worked fantastically well. There’s not a single player I can point at that didn't put in a solid performance.

“It's great to get a 3-1 win against Chiefs, but the truth of the matter is that we now need to turn our focus towards Ajax Cape Town, our next game.”

He’s right of course. Pirates aren’t out of trouble yet. They need to be contenders before the fans will stop their #tinklerout campaign. But at least they moved ahead of Gordon Igesund’s SuperSport United, which proves a point of some kind.

Suddenly the spotlight is on Steve Komphela, whose record against Pirates now reads played 12, won 2, drawn 2, lost 8. I said when Bobby Motaung dismantled his record-breaking championship machine last season, the urbane Komphela would be under too much pressure.

The loss of coach Stuart Baxter is not as serious as the shocking failure to give Tefu Mashamaite, last season’s PSL player of the year, a new contract. To play Bukenya, the ageless Ugandan midfielder, at centre-back, is to invite trouble. Quite what’s happened to Siyanda Xulu, who is now the best paid player in the PSL, nobody knows. An old injury? Back in training? But not ready for the derby? Curious.

And then there’s the other title winner they kicked out. Mandla Masango. Like MashaMIGHTY, he was forced to find a job in Scandinavia after Bobby and Chiefs refused him the pay rise he thought he deserved.

For those who have forgotten so quickly, Masango was the AmaKhosi’s top scorer in that title triumph last season. His ability to nick valuable goals from midfield is lost, George Lebese has been a capable stand-in but he appears to be carrying an injury of late.

All of which leaves Komphela, for all his flowery post-match interviews, in a bit of a hole. Instead of going top, they fall away and are lucky Bidvest Wits failed to win a couple of hours after the Soweto derby to extend their advantage with a game in hand.

Komphela blustered: “Pirates were a yard ahead of us. Each time we got the ball we lost it, and they were faster.

““We just need to go back and re-think what happened today. We lost it, we have to respond and congratulations to them.”

Not quite what the AmaKhosi wanted to hear as the Chiefs unbeaten record went up in smoke. But before the vast ranks of gold-and-black clad fans turn on Komphela, remember this: It was the “football manager” Bobby Motaung who opted to dismantle the championship squad. As I said at the time: there is only one man to blame.

Also worth a read on this issue:

How Khune was nearly Bobby trapped too:

Why Baxter REALLY left Kaizer Chiefs:

Mbalula Fikile's astonishing tribute to the Springboks: I'll just leave this here. No editing. You comment.

JACK IN THE BOKS: Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula
Here is Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula's statement on the Springboks finishing third at the Rugby World Cup in England, sent to me by e-mail this morning.

There are some quite incredible comments like "The springboks  are our African African patriots, in their veins flow the blood of our common ancestors" and anybody who disagrees? "Our people must forever be vigilant and not allow our detractors to bastardise Mandela’s legacy".

Remember, this is the man who once described South Africa's national football team Bafana Bafana as a bunch of losers. Who accused this writer of "being on nyaope" for revealing the deceit of the pre-2010 "African Diaspora fund" when he was denying all knowledge of that infamous $10m payment.

The man who singularly fails to deal with the real issues in sport - match-fixing, bribery, development and corruption - appears to have worked really hard on this document. While he prepares to spend R6.5 BILLION on the Commonwealth Games in Durban (a sum which would provide free university education for ALL) with accusations of corruption already coming to the surface, appears obsessed by our elderly, unrepresentative rugby team. The question is: WHY?

Please read it carefully. It's quite staggering. Not quite sure what the ancestors would think.

31 OCTOBER 2015


Today we pay homage and tribute to the springbok team that defeated Argentina to claim the third place in the IRB 2015 I World Cup. I take this rare opportunity to salute Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Brian Habana,  Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villers for their selfless services and infinite commitment to the man in black green and gold and the people of South Africa. These senior players ,who by right and exhibition, reached their twilight days in international rugby remain loads stars to the current generation and a source of inspiration to posterity. Go well you South African compatriots! Farewell you faithful soldiers. 

As a nation we must remember that the springboks entered this World Cup against the backdrop of four successive loses in international test rugby. A shocking loss to Japan in the opening match  at the IRB 2015 RWC. Our boys in green and gold came to the IRB 2015 RWC representing a divided nation bickering over demographic representation and grappling with the necessary and inevitable perennial transformation debate. 

On the other hand, the All Blacks from New Zealand, our opponents had none of the above and that naturally gives them an edge over us. With all that baggage, the boys advanced to the semi-finals and gave the All Blacks a taste of their own medicine before bowing out in dignity and with their heads standing high on their shoulders. That is the spirit, bravado, passion, pride and brute synonymous with the springbok team. 

For this act and never die spirit of a springbok team, the nation salute and the coach for flying the South African flag high and fearlessly fighting to bring the Webb Ellis cup to the African continent for the third time. We take our hats off to the team for demonstrating once again that victory and glory belong to those who are prepared to make supreme sacrifices. The Springboks are the harbingers of the future and the posterity will benefit immensely by taking a leaf from their trial and tribulations. 

The springboks  are our African African patriots, in their veins flow the blood of our common ancestors. Whatever challenges we face as a nation, whatever contradictions society throws up in the  course of the struggle for transformation, whoever maliciously attempt to derail the path our government, has chosen ; that of peace and development thorough sport, nation building and social cohesion through sport, our people must forever be vigilant and not allow our detractors to bastardise Mandela’s legacy.

We must be vigilant, defend the core-values, consolidate what we have achieved thus far, advance and deepen the struggle for democracy, transformation and development in sport. The springboks and the transformation of any other code must be located in that vortex of a nation constructing it's identity and taking its rightful place in the global community.

I end by invoking the words of a Brazilian Philosopher Roberto Unger when he said “ the internal dynamics of societies, the revelations of inescapable conflicts and missed opportunities, are the proximate cause of their transformation”. Therein lies the strategic debate in framing the discourse and preparing our nation for the 2019 RWC in Japan. In the coming years we will not entertain meaningless debates. We have a Transformation Charter and the Eminent Persons Group on Transformation comprehensive recommendations to implement in order  to achieve transformation goals.


Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Scorpion kick: South Africa's Itumeleng Khune does a Rene Higuita, twenty years on. Don't try this at home!

STING IN THE TALE: Itumeleng Khune's Scorpion. Video of BOTH below

HERE it is, the Itumeleng Khune scorpion kick used by the Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper against Mpumalanga Black Aces on Tuesday night (Oct 27, 2015).

In a clash of two unbeaten PSL clubs, Khune was voted Man of the Match for a series of superb saves - including a point blank header from top scorer Collins Mbesuma - which saw his club triumph 1-0.

But it was THIS MOMENT which has swept the football-speaking world.

Twenty years after Rene Higuita of Colombia stunned England fans with his effort at Wembley, Khune grinned afterwards: "I promised to do it in an official match… what a relief.”

Higuita produced his acrobatics (using two legs, not one) in a friendly... but Khune's cheeky clearance stunned the FNB Stadium, once known as Soccer City, venue of the 2010 World Cup.

Higuita used the kick to deny Jamie Redknapp's speculative effort in a dull 0-0 draw on 6 September 1995, while Khune produced his magic in a must-win clash at the top of South Africa's domestic league.

Khune's final word: "Every day you are blessed with opportunities to get better."

Sunday, 25 October 2015

SEXWALE FOR PRESIDENT! The man we call Tokyo is ready to give old friend Blatter the chop at FIFA

JUST GOOD FRIENDS: Sepp Blatter and Tokyo Sexwale

MOSIMA GABRIEL SEXWALE. They call him Tokyo because he loved karate as a kid. And everyone's asking WHO is this reclusive South African millionaire thrust back in to the spotlight by his willingness to stand for FIFA president on February 26?

What was it he said yesterday? "The brand of FIFA is seriously damaged following various scandals. It needs to be restored."

Brave sentiments. Now 62, Sexwale has never been involved in professional football as a player or administrator, but that shouldn’t rule him out of contention against a diverse list of people who have thrown their names into the hat to replace the currently suspended Sepp Blatter.

Described by the Guardian in the UK as “ an apartheid-era political prisoner turned multimillionaire mining tycoon”, Tokyo is listed only as FIFA’s “anti-racism” advisor. His latest mission was to sort out the "normalisation" of football in Palestine and Israel... he has played no public part in footballing or sporting administration in South Africa.

Sexwale (it’s NOT pronounced Sex Whale, for Westerners who can’t click it’s more like Sesh Waa Lay) didn’t have much time for sport as a young man, he was too busy (like many of his generation) fighting South Africa’s inhuman political philosophy Apartheid (pronounced Aparthate).

He’s a struggle hero in his home country, which comes with its own unique pressures. Most famously of all, he was jailed on Robben Island alongside the father of the nation, Nelson Mandela. When Aparthate fell in 1994, Tokyo became the first democratic Premier of Gauteng, the province which grew out of the old Transvaal, incorporating the huge metropolis of Johannesburg and Pretoria, the financial hub of the mining nation.

SMILE PLEASE: Blatter, Sexwale and Valcke with
Nelson Mandela during the World Cup in 2010
Politically, Sexwale was once headed for the presidency, but his attempts to unseat South Africa’s second democratic president Thabo Mbeki failed as Jacob Zuma slipped in to the hot-seat after the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007.

From 2009 to 2013, Tokyo was Minister of Human Settlements but his time in the ruling African National Congress came to an end when he chose once more to invest his energy in to mining rather than politics - an astute decision given the corruption allegations which have raged around Zuma’s reign

Sexwale was born in Orlando West, the son of a clerk at a local hospital. He left Orlando West High in 1973, just four years short of the Soweto Uprising which, infamously, saw school children shot by a minority Apartheid government still clinging to power.

A follower of Steve Biko’s black consciousness movement, he was a leader in the South African Student Movement before fleeing the country as so many struggle exiles did, to join Umkhonto we Sizwe, (“Spear of the Nation”) to fight the white minority government. He completed a Certificate in Business Studies during his time in Swaziland, a small independent nation almost entirely surrounded by South Africa.

He also spent time in the old Soviet Union, training with their military, specialising in engineering. But when Sexwale returned to South Africa, he was arrested and imprisoned for 18 years for terrorism and conspiracy to overthrow the National Party government.

During his 13 years on Robben Island - the “Alcatraz” off Cape Town which was reserved for freedom fighters - he studied for a B Com degree before his release in 1990 under the Groote Schuur Agreement. He is recognised as an expert in the African mining industry, particularly in the diamond sector.

Tokyo struck up a relationship with local para-legal Judy van Vuuren while he was behind bars - they married soon after he was released. The African National Congress beckoned and Sexwale took over the PWV province, previously Transvaal, now Gauteng, after the elections. In 1998 he left politics to forge a career as a businessman but he was drawn back when Mbeki was replaced by Zuma… only to leave again. That he is successful is beyond doubt. He is President of South Africa’s Russian and Japanese business forums and is Honorary Consul General of Finland.

But his football connections are marked mainly by a strong relationship with the now disgraced Sepp Blatter. Sexwale, through the build-up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, was often pictured with Blatter and his side-kick Jerome Valcke, he was the hand-holder, the smiling face of Africa's first EVER World Cup.

Though Danny Jordaan, the SAFA president who now also doubles as the ANC’s Mayor of Port Elizabeth, has backed him for the FIFA job, neither have addressed the controversies which stir in the background. From his attempts to unseat Mbeki to his involvement in business deals in the north of the continent to his public rift with wife Judy, Sexwale is not quite the squeaky clean leader required by FIFA post-Blatter.

What was it Jordaan said when "approving" Sexwale's candidacy yesterday? "We've endorsed him unanimously because we are comfortable Tokyo's history, credibility, life experience will help resurrect the essential sport of the African continent, the ONLY sport played by all 54 nations on our continent"

Personally, I'd have gone for former Leeds United and Bafana Bafana icon Lucas Radebe if SAFA are going to back somebody for a top football job without an experience at SAFA. Radebe is squeaky-clean, he owns no $70m islands, he does not do business with questionable regimes up north.

Still, Tokyo's rivals for the hottest seat in football are hardly glowing paragons of virtue. Michel Platini, the former France midfielder, has the footballing credentials but is tainted by payments made to him by Blatter.

Another Frenchman, Jérôme Champagne, is former deputy general secretary of FIFA who has long dabbled in footballing politics while Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein is known only for his run against Blatter in May. A fourth candidate, David Nakhid, a former Trinidad & Tobago midfielder, is marked by his connections to Jack Warner’s controversial CONCACAF administration.

Sexwale says: "Issa Hayatou (the life-long CAF president and caretaker boss at FIFA until Blatter is unsuspended) has invited me to come to Cairo on October 28. I will put forward my proposals for reforms in FIFA. The mantle of president is heavy."

Still, with Liberia’s Musa Bility out of the running, Sexwale is sure to pull most, if not all, of Africa’s 54 votes, not bad in an electorate of 209.

And the German FA have gone public with their support. Platini is discredited and currently suspended, leaving many European nations looking for a mast to nail their colours too. Bahrain's Sheikh Salman Bing Al-Khalifa may enter the race too, the Asia Football Confederation president may attract European votes too despite human rights issues.

But Sexwale was in jail with Madiba. He has a great name. He's so rich, corruption may not be worth the bother. Why not Sexwale?

Sunday, 18 October 2015

SUFFER WITH SAFA: How an untested 35-year-old got to take charge of South Africa's latest competitive disaster

Left in charge of the nation: Thabo Senong, 35
THE pertinent question after another disastrous weekend for the South African Football Association is this: why did our current national coach not take charge of Bafana Bafana’s humiliating 2-0 defeat against Angola at the Rand Stadium on Saturday?

When Danny Jordaan told me a year ago that Ephraim Mashaba’s main task was to lower the age of the South Africa squad, I never suspected he meant giving Thabo Senong - a 35-year-old coach with a trophy-free CV - full control of the national team.

But that’s the remarkable trick Shaky pulled on Saturday. Apparently Senong, the youngest ever to qualify for Safa's Level 3 Pro Licence in 2011 at 31, picked the CHAN squad (a gathering of unpicked PSL pros, several of them over 30), coached them all week and presided over an embarrassing first leg defeat.

The “Encyclopedia of Youth” even proudly gave the post-match talk, while Shaky hovered in the background, telling us: “I’m sure we can score twice in Luanda, maybe even three.”

In any other nation, the handing of the national squad to a man who has never coached a club would be a major story. There are great managers in the PSL - Gavin Hunt, Steve Komphela, Roger de Sa - who have NEVER been in the Bafana hot-seat.

But for SAFA, it was a mere detail. Another competitive failure after Algeria, Senegal, Ghana, Botswana, Malawi, Gambia and Mauritania hardly ranks on a Richter scale of quakes last week which included:

1 Bafana departing for their Central America tour TWICE. They went to OR Tambo without transit visas for the US and were forced to return to the airport the next morning and fly via Brazil.

2 The team played Costa Rica and Honduras without a recognised striker when non-playing Premier League striker Tokelo Rantie pulled out injured and the Orlando Pirates trio failed to join the squad on a later flight.

3 On their return, Mashaba and five of the technical staff took the early flights home, leaving the home-based players to arrive on Saturday, forcing the postponement of all but one of the weekend’s PSL fixtures.

4 Rantie, who hasn’t even featured on the bench for Bournemouth since their promotion, then went on twitter telling South Africans “you don’t understand football” when Marco Reus wasn’t booed while playing for Germany.

5 Amidst all this, former SAFA employee Ace Kika was handed a SIX YEAR ban for FIFA for his part in the 2010 match-fixing scandal. Their response: “He doesn’t work for the Association any more.”

Rather than conduct a post mortem to ensure such problems never happen again, SAFA just carried on as if nothing had happened. Mashaba issued a few quotes saying how wonderful the Central American tour had been. Bafana tweeted nice pictures and retweeted a few Springboks tweets about the Rugby World Cup.

At no stage did SAFA or Bafana Bafana explain why they had disrupted the entire weekend’s football. A brief apology appeared at 4.30pm on Thursday but by then I’d used other sources - including frustrated Bafana stars left behind by Mashaba in Honduras - to point out that SAFA are actually in breach of FIFA rules by bringing their players home more than 48 hours after an international fixtures.

There were similar shenanigans after AFCON 2015 of course. Humiliation on the field was followed by a FIVE DAY disappearance. The foreign-based players were home and in training by the time the PSL stars got back from Equatorial Guinea.

Sadly, nothing will be done. No questions will be answered truthfully. Did the new Technical Director Neil Tovey play ANY part in all this? Who gave Mashaba permission to put Senong in charge? Why did CONCACAF nations pay all the costs of those abortive flights?

We were just left with Danny Jordaan, the Mayor of Port Elizabeth and President of SAFA, telling us “the real Bafana” will turn things around in those two looming World Cup qualifiers against Angola next month.

While Mr Mashaba charged off, without a word, to an awards ceremony where he had been nominated for South African of the Year.

Close your eyes. Hum the national anthem. Try to find Siyaya TV. Hope nobody else gets banned. Try to track down the Africa Diaspora fund. Pray for three goals in Luanda. Pray the AmaJimbos did okay against Costa Rica at the Under 17 World Cup in Chile last night. Pray for Shaky against Angola in the World Cup qualifiers. And for further miracles against Cameroon in AFCON 2017 qualifying.

But for God’s sake SAFA, don’t tell the people what is really going on. It would be too much.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

HERE IT IS, IN FULL: The South African Football Association's apology for wrecking the weekend's football fixtures

Shakes on a plane: Mashaba got an early flight home,
leaving his Bafana players behind in Honduras
There's no point in embellishing this. Despite repeated requests for clarification, SAFA waited until 4.25pm on Thursday afternoon to reveal just how chaotic their organisation has become.

While South Africa's foreign contingent got early flights out of Honduras and are already back with their clubs, the home-based Bafana stars were left to fly out late, forcing the postponement of four PSL games scheduled for the weekend.

And here's the kicker: national head coach Shakes Mashaba flew out early, leaving his players behind, like a father deserting his children. He's already home, presumably to help assistant Thabo Senong with the CHAN game against Angola still scheduled for Saturday at the Rand Stadium.

It beggars belief. After that 1-1 draw in Honduras in the early hours of Wednesday morning (half of which was blanked out on our television screens without explanation from SABC), the truth is Bafana Bafana knew they wouldn't be able to get their players home in time.

Here's the SAFA apology released this afternoon:

Due to unavailability of flights from Central America direct to South Africa, the Bafana Bafana squad will only land in South Africa on Saturday morning from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
We would like to apologise to the PSL, clubs and fans for the inconvenience which resulted in the postponement of four matches scheduled for this weekend.
We would also like to thank all the stakeholders for their cooperation regarding this matter.

Having cocked-up their departure by trying to travel to Costa Rica via Atlanta in the United States without transit visas, Bafana were forced (at some expense to the hosts) to travel to Central America via Rio de Janeiro in Brazil 12 hours later. They also failed to persuade three late-travelling Orlando Pirates players to join them after the Buccaneers semi-final triumph over Al Ahly in Egypt.

Then, just like their five-day mystery-tour return from Equatorial Guinea after a disastrous AFCON earlier this year, the long trek home began, with denials and excuses thrown about like confetti.

Openly on twitter, time and again, I asked SAFA Communications Director Dominic Chimhavi and Bafana Bafana Miscommunications boss Matlahomo Morake when the team would arrive home. Even now we have no time, just a day: SATURDAY.

And yes, the PSL resumes hours after they land (I'm told most of the players will arrive at around 7am) so   the entire South African football programme has had to be rescheduled. Fortunately, crowds are so tiny few fans will be bothered. But for Kaizer Chiefs and their thousands, Bafana Bafana's awful incompetence HAS to be accounted for.

In a week when former SAFA official Ace Kika was banned for SIX YEARS for his part in the 2010 match-fixing affair, our national football association simply seems hell-bent on self-destruction, with president Danny Jordaan too busy being Mayor of Port Elizabeth to actually get involved.

As if to highlight SAFA's incompetence, Mpumalanga Black Aces chairman George Morfou took matters in to his own hands, flying his goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane home simply by booking the flight privately. Mabokgwane is already home, though he needn't have bothered. Aces clash with Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday has already been postponed.

The rescheduled games: 
Chippa United vs SuperSport United
Bidvest Wits vs Jomo Cosmos
Kaizer Chiefs vs MP Black Aces
Platinum Stars vs Ajax Cape Town

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Signs of improvement for Bafana: but Shaky needs to be less friendly

THE LOCAL VIEW: Mashaba arrives in Honduras
Picture: @bafanabafana
SUDDENLY, South Africa's football team is a "well-oiled machine" according to Bafana Bafana boss Shakes Mashaba. A nation "which should be among the top sides in Africa" according to Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

My take? ALWAYS APPLAUD SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT. That was my reaction to those who wrote off Bafana Bafana’s win in Costa Rica in the wee hours of Friday morning as “just another friendly”.

And that will be my reaction if national coach Ephraim Mashaba manages to rouse South Africa to a similar triumph in central America against Honduras as Tuesday becomes Wednesday at San Pedro Sula.

Yes, coach Shakes does love a friendly to hide his shortcomings in competitive games. But then we all know that. We also know he likes to pick players based on agent’s recommendations rather than the evidence of his own eyes.

We also know he got his own son to ask questions at his last major press conference in this country as we recovered from the shock of that 1-3 AFCON 2017 qualifying defeat in Mauritania. 

We know he makes dodgy substitutions when the pressure is on, I’m told his team talks are a joke and the man himself freely accepts he’s no tactical genius, “more of a motivator” in his words.

But the win against Costa Rica, a tiny nation of less than five million people, WAS significant. Though they had barely won a game since their epic progress to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Brazil last year, this was on their patch, in front of 25,000 enthusiastic fans.

Remember, Bafana didn’t have a real striker in their squad. It took them two visits to the airport to actually get the impromptu two-nation CONCACAF tour underway because their US transit visas were not in order.

And then there was that abortive attempt to fly three weary Orlando Pirates - Mpho Makola,  Thamsanqa Gabuza and Thabo Matlaba - to Costa Rica via Brazil as late reinforcements.

To be frank the whole trip looked like a waste of time and effort (though not funds, apparently the CONCACAF nations are paying for the whole thing) until Andile Jali’s first half goal gave us hope of an away win against a nation ranked 42nd in the world despite their recent slump in form (they reached a high of 13th after the World Cup).

And so to Honduras. As far as I know, no reinforcements have been shipped out. Tyson Hlatshwayo has flown home after the death of his uncle. Apparently Shaky is happy to continue his crusade without a striker after the withdrawal of non-playing Bournemouth “star” Tokelo Rantie with a muscle strain (that’s another story).

We will play Honduras, a nation of just 8m, ranked 89 in the world (South Africa are currently 73) with George Lebese, Thulani Serero and Sibusiso Vilakazi pushing forward from midfield, perhaps even Kamohelo Mokotjo will join in the fun.

Another win is quite possible. Honduras reached the last World Cup but while Costa Rica won their group unbeaten and sent England and Italy home, Honduras ended bottom of their group with no points and a goal difference of -7.

If Bafana do win, expect Shaky to tell us once more how we can compete with “world-class opposition” and how we can “beat anybody on our day” and who can argue?

But then the Bafana boss must return to competitive football. On Saturday at the Rand Stadium, his home-based CHAN squad - a team of likely PSL substitutes rather than brave youngsters - begin their two-legged epic against Angola.

Then we have the two REAL games against the same nation in World Cup qualification. And, in the coming months. the prospect of home and away clashes with Cameroon where two wins are imperative to revive minuscule AFCON 2017 qualification hopes.

Those are the vital games. Friendly results against Costa Rica and Honduras will count for nothing if Shaky goes out of the World Cup and AFCON.

But if he returns from the Americas with two neat away wins in front of hostile crowds, we have to accept THERE ARE SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

HANDS OFF TINKLER! Orlando Pirates produce a tactical master class in Egypt. And that's FINAL

The eternal caretaker: Eric Tinkler
RARELY has a successful continental campaign been so roundly condemned. Orlando Pirates astonishing trip to the CAF Confederations Cup final has confounded the Buccaneers’ one-eyed fans and stunned the media critics.

For months, the Ghost have haunted Eric Tinkler, the fall guy in a soap opera that has featured Roger de Sa and Vladimir Vermezovic over a torrid two year spell.

Ever since Irvin Khoza got rid of Ruud Krol just as he produced the first treble for Pirates, the Orlando giants have been weaving about all over the place.

Sure, Julio Leal and Augusto Palacios went on to claim a second treble (with a bit of help from one Benni McCarthy), then along came De Sa to engineer a run to the Champions League final which ended, as things normally do, in Egypt.

But Roger was never loved. He decamped to Cape Town and his assistant Tinkler played second fiddle to VV, the man who leaves players and fans in tears from Baragwanath to Belgrade.

When Khoza finally accepted the inevitable, Vlad the Sad was sent home and Tinkler took over as the eternal caretaker.

He pulled them out of the mire domestically and somehow managed to secure the Sea Robbers a place on the ship marked: Confederations Cup qualifiers.

And all winter, Tinkler has had to drag his weary men through the endless rounds of African football, with detoured flights and strange hotels, dusty training pitches and angry foreign crowds.

But against all the odds, Eric pushed in to the group stages and trailed Zamalek in to the semi-finals, a brand new innovation for the Confed Cup this season.

Now 45, Tinkler was a nuggety midfielder in the English top flight with Barnsley in his day. Unlike many South African coaches (and media analysts), he’s been there and played in Europe. While he struggled to produce results in the PSL, the African crusade went on…and on.

And so to the semi-final second leg at Suez on Sunday night. With Zamalek going out to Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel on Saturday, Al Ahly appeared to ignore the restrictions on the crowd and a lot more than the expected 2000 squeezed in to offer their support.

On the social networks, Tinkler was a dead man. A difficult first half had Pirates fans calling for his head. But hold on, said I, this is the plan. Even at 1-0 down, it was no disaster when half-time came.

I said he’d bring on Kermit Erasmus after 10mins and Tinkler did just that. Even though Al Ahly had scored a second goal, it didn’t matter. The crucial away goal on top of the 1-0 first leg win at Orlando meant that, when Erasmus scored his cracker not long after coming on, Pirates were in front.

And Al Ahly began to panic. They threw everything forward, trying to add to Malick Evouna’s brace. But it was Pirates who struck. Thami Gabuza’s deflected effort just about finished them off. Roving full-back Thabo Matlaba added a third.

And when Al Ahly scored their third, Thabo Rakhale, another shrewd Tinkler sub, popped up to make it 4-3 on the night, 5-3 on aggregate. Time up. 

When did ANY club score FOUR in Egypt? With Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs going out before the Group Stages in the African Champions League, this wasn’t just a tactical master-class from Tinkler, it was a BLOODY MIRACLE.

And suddenly the social networks were as quiet as Al Ahly’s “banned” fans. Sir Eric Tinkler, take a bow. The critics are well and truly confounded. Jaust glad I was never one of them!