S'Busiso Mseleku

Tough job for new Bafana coach

2014-06-04 13:55
Sport24 columnist S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
There is never a dull moment in South African football. If only it was so even on the pitch during matches at our stadiums, the Premier Soccer League (PSL) would not be struggling to get bums on seats.

But while the PSL season is in recess, there are fireworks off the field.

No sooner had the debate moved from Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund’s future than it was on who his replacement would be.

For the record, the South African Football Association (SAFA) announced that they will not extend his contract when it expires at the end of July, in the same breath, they revealed that they had already started the search for his successor and there was already a shortlist of names.

The two names that have emerged as front-runners are those of Carlos Queiroz, who was once at the helm of our national team, and Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi.

Let me just declare upfront: I will not have a problem if SAFA were to appoint any of the two gentlemen. They both have proven and quite impressive credentials.

For the record, Queiroz of Mozambique was the last coach to qualify Bafana Bafana for the World Cup. That was way back during his tenure that ran from 2000 to 2002. They qualified for the 2002 event in Korea/Japan but by the time the World Cup came, he was no longer coach.

The trigger-happy SAFA fired him after the national team bombed out of the quarter-finals at the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) being eliminated by hosts, Mali. He had also qualified the team for this tournament.

Needless to say, Mali has gone on to become one of the giants of African football.

Queiroz has since then been assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson and had a stint at Real Madrid. But it is at national level where he has proved his mettle and has qualified Portugal for the 2010 World Cup held here and is currently in Brazil with the unfancied Iran whom he also qualified for the event as coach.

Keshi captained Nigeria to success at the 1994 AFCON played in Tunisia. He led the team at the World Cup in the USA in the same year as skipper.

As a coach, The Boss, as Keshi is known by his charges and peers in the football fraternity, has had success with three nations on the continent.

He qualified Togo for their first World Cup, leading them to Germany in 2006. He led Mali to the 2010 AFCON but most recently, qualified his Nigerian national team for the 2013 AFCON, which they won. They also won the African Nations Championship played here in South Africa earlier this year and he is currently in Brazil for the World Cup having led the team to qualification once more.
It is for these reasons I say I will not have a problem with any of the two coaches being given the Bafana Bafana job.

But there are a few thorny questions that beg answers should any coach be appointed to lead the senior South African soccer team.

Can any coach turn our players into the roaring lions they need to be to conquer as they have only proven to be nothing more than pussycats?

Is the situation here - more especially the fraught relationship between SAFA and PSL - conducive for any coach to be successful?

These will need to be sorted out before any man is brought in and is expected to deliver good results.

As for Igesund, his failure to meet his set targets proves once more that being a successful club coach does not always translate to success at national team level.

Igesund is a good coach. Proof is the four PSL league titles he has won with different clubs. However, he could not transfer this to his tenure as national coach.

So those calling for another multiple-league winning coach Gavin Hunt to be given a go at Bafana Bafana, should do so very guardedly as it can never be a given that he will succeed.
There is a reason why Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola - to mention just four successful coaches - have stuck to clubs and never tried their hand at national teams.

Having a good league is also no guarantee that the national team will be successful. Just as we have to look at 1996 for consolation as the year when Bafana won the AFCON on home soil, England who claims to have the best league in the world, still look back to 1966 - that is 48 years ago - for their last victory at the World Cup.

In a nutshell, there is a lot of work that needs to be done for Bafana Bafana’s fortunes to be turned around and there are no quick-fix solutions.

So whether it is Queiroz, Keshi or somebody else, they will have their work all cut out for them.

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.

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.

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