Very few betting men would have put a wager on Shakes Mashaba still being around to guide Bafana Bafana in their quest to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Having failed to qualify the team for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Gabon, for many, the writing was on the wall that Mashaba would be relieved of his duties.
But not so for the suites SAFA who are in charge of the running of the game nationally.
They saw it wise to allow Mashaba to continue, thus giving him a task to make the team one of the best five from the continent.
Unlike the AFCON where 16 African nations will fight it out, there are only five slots for African countries at the World Cup.
For Bafana Bafana to make it to the global event in Russia, they will have to top Group D where they are pitted against Burkina Faso, Senegal and Cape Verde.
This is a tough call if you ask me.
Despite the fact that Senegal is the only country that is ranked above Bafana Bafana in this group, we all know how the national men’s senior soccer team has disappointed. They recently failed to emerge from a group that had Mauritania, Gambia and Cameroon.
Our beloved Bafana have huffed and puffed their way to a lowly 62nd world ranking and 13th on the continent while Burkina Faso are ranked 67th and 16th, Senegal 39th and their and Cape Verde 72nd and 18th in the world and Africa, respectively.
Bafana’s journey starts this Saturday evening (20:00 SA time) with an away tie against Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou.
They will then have a home game against the highly rated Senegal on November 12.
These two matches should give a clear indication of how things are going to pan out going forward. This should also give the SAFA head honchos enough time to mull over the coach’s position as there will be a seven-month break with the next match penciled for August 2017 where Bafana will tackle the Cape Verde away on the weekend of August 1/2 with the return match on Tuesday, September 5.
The next step will be hosting Burkina Faso on October 7 and then round off the qualifiers away to Senegal on the weekend of November 10/12.
So the journey that starts this Saturday will either culminate in unbridled jubilation for the South African nation in November next year or the familiar wailing and gnashing of teeth.
I must say I was surprised that the current team is not populated by a majority of players from the SA Under-23 team that did duty at the Rio Olympic Games.
My understanding was that the process of development as per SAFA’s Vision 2022 was that teams graduate so that they can represent the country at the next global event.
In that case, it would be automatic that after representing the country at the Olympic Games, the players would graduate to leading the country in qualifying for the World Cup and then represent it at this biggest soccer event.
But, and a big but, this is South Africa and we do tend to have our own way of doing things. We have also perfected the art of saying something and doing something completely different.
So when it comes to South Africa - more especially football - we cannot rely heavily on the line in the Bible that says: “As a man speaks, so is he.”
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 over 30 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.
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.