Shakes Mashaba seems to be bent on perfecting the art
of tying himself in knots.
Before the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), he made
all sorts of noises telling the entire nation that his suitcase was packed with
clothes to last him for the entire tournament.
He seemed shocked when the nation met him with disappointment
when he returned with the team after the first round.
This was a similar scenario as in 2004, 2006 and 2008
before the team failed to qualify for the 2010 and 2012 events before they got
in through the back door as hosts for 2013.
At his return, he claimed that the nation's hopes had
been prematurely raised by the good performances and positive results through
He was quick remind us that his "actual"
mandate when he was appointed, was to prepare the team for the 2017 AFCON and
the 2018 World Cup.
But, the honourable Mashaba conveniently omitted the fact that he had a hand in giving
the nation false hopes before the Afcon 2015 finals.
What had worked like a charm for him in the build-up
to that tournament, was something he had also done so well in the past;
selecting on-form players regardless of whether they are big names or no name brands.
He gave some young players such as Rivaldo Coetzee
opportunities to make their mark on the international scene.
Today, at the tender age of 18 Coetzee is a full-blown
international and has hardly put a foot wrong in the Bafana Bafana jersey.
But whatever went wrong, nobody knows, however
Mashaba's selection of players has grown more and more puzzling and bizarre. To
make things worse, results have not been forthcoming.
So, following a stuttering start to the 2017 AFCON
qualifiers where Bafana were held to a goalless draw by Gambia - who are not
known as world-beaters - at home nogal,
Mashaba was expected to select the strongest squad available for his next game
away to Mauritania which now falls in the category of a "must win".
Asked how he had come up with the list of players he selected,
Mashaba boldly told the hacks gathered at the South African Football
Association (SAFA) house that he had gone for form.
This raised eyebrows as some of the players such as
Mandla Masango, Dean Furman, Tokelo Rantie, Thulani Serero and Anele Ngcongca
have not kicked a ball in anger this season.
Furman was only flaunted by SuperSport United last
week as their new signee after a fallout with his English third tier club Doncaster
Masango only flew out to Denmark late last month to
join Randers FC after a protracted battle with his former club Kaizer Chiefs.
Serero has been out with an ankle injury and has seen
no action for Ajax Amsterdam while Rantie did not start in the two opening
fixtures for his newly promoted English Premiership side Bournemouth.
So what current form did Mashaba base his selection of
The one player that was due his call-up based on the
sizzling form he has displayed, was Orlando Pirates' Mpho Makola who has been
red-hot both in the CAF Confederation Cup and the Absa Premiership.
It defies logic how Mashaba can go for players who
have not seen action and leave out the likes of Thuso Phala, Sifiso Myeni and
Happy Jele if indeed his call-ups are based on current form.
Maybe the coach should have just been honest and said
he went for players that he trusts and those who have done the job for him at one stage or another.
Nothing wrong with that.
We all know that coaches do fall into the trap of
having their favourite players. Nothing wrong with that either. After all,
coaches are human.
But if the 2017 AFCON and the 2018 World Cup are
Mashaba's targets, time is running out for him to settle for a steady and solid
team that he will only tinker with in case of injuries or loss of form.
Time for experimenting is long gone.
He should also stop sounding like a ventriloquist, say
something else and do the opposite or maybe just get a spokesperson and stick
to coaching, a field in which he is no slouch.
This might yield the desired results, which is winning
S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading
sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of
the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is
currently City Press Sports Editor.
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