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
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
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
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.
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