Mark Gleeson

Shakes faces toughest task yet

2015-08-31 11:01
Mark Gleeson (Gallo Images)

Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba faces arguably the toughest game in his year-long reign in Mauritania next weekend - however lowly their standing might be in the continental game and mediocre their previous results.

After performing poorly in the first of the 2017 African Nations Cup qualifiers, at home to the equally lowly Gambia in June, South Africa are already on the back foot in their bid to qualify - and the coach knows it.

That is why he has largely abandoned all the cheap talk about development and supposed ‘Vision 2022’ plans and done, largely, what any national coach should do - pick his best team.

For the last year a mockery has been made of the national team with Mashaba’s insistence of using the squad as a forum for supposed bringing on youngsters and incubator for the future.

Players still to find a regular place at club level in the Premier Soccer League, where they are not ready or proven, are now able to call themselves internationals and claim caps for the country, cheapening the achievements of the those who have come before them.

Mashaba did it to try and be different from his predecessor, who had his own similar quirk when he took over the job so that he, too, could prove different to the man he was replacing.

Using Under-17 and Under-20 players in the Bafana squad was Mashaba’s supposed task, just as self serving as when Gordon Igesund told us he had been trolling through hours of video tape and uncovered a pile of South Africans overseas who could come to the countries rescue.

If Dino Ndlovu, Kgosietsile Ntlhe and Ricardo Nunes were Igesund’s folly, then picking Dumisani Msibi, Ayabulela Konqobe (Magqwaka) and Bongani Ndulula have been Mashaba’s embarrassment.

Using the national team to please the pundits and try and score public relations points is no way to begin your reign, nor indeed run a team. It ended ingloriously for Igesund and Mashaba could be headed the same way if this side fails to qualify for Gabon in 2017 and the World Cup the year thereafter.

Mashaba has evidently realised he sits at a crossroads and strengthened his squad. Back comes, for example, Tsepo Masilela, who was ignored a year ago because he was supposedly too old to fit into the vision of a future national team.

But he does fit the current, and correct, criteria, which is that he is simply the best left back we have ... and should be in the side.

At the end of the day, any national coach who wants a winning team must forget the folly of extraneous criteria and stick to one principle only: picking the best.

As an example, for me, Itumeleng Khune is the best 'keeper and so he should be in goal. Not some teenager the coach thinks might come good in a few years time.

The same holds true everywhere else on the field.

Mauritania might, historically, be footballing lightweights but they could provide a real threat for South Africa. At last, Mashaba has picked some warriors for the job and will hopefully be rewarded with important, and much-needed, away success.

Mark Gleeson is a world-renowned soccer commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    bafana bafana  |  shakes mashaba  |  soccer

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