The 2-1 victory over the Teranga Lions of Senegal should be a cause for celebration for Bafana fans, however fortunate the three points, as it puts South Africa in an excellent position after the opening two rounds of qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Instead, all the focus is now on the future of coach Shakes Mashaba, who has been suspended after a “regrettable incident” on Saturday after the game.
A video did the rounds yesterday of Mashaba losing his rag, in the snippet I saw seemingly with a media he feels persecuted by. Mashaba also appears to have lost it with the Safa hierarchy, and that has led to his suspension for tonight’s game against Mozambique in Maputo.
It is a bizarre twist, as victory was widely regarded as enough to save the Bafana coach his job, which looked under threat from the moment Safa president Danny Jordaan slammed the team’s performance against Mauritania in September, as a draw completed a dismal qualification campaign for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
Jordaan has, to my mind, tried to remove Mashaba for some time now, putting out criticism of the head coach in the press, generally behaving like a man who has no faith in Mashaba’s work. This suspension only confirms my suspicions – whatever Mashaba said, has Jordaan suddenly developed the thinnest of skins? I would doubt that, and rather suggest Safa are looking for any excuse to remove Mashaba from the job.
This smacks of an attack on a coach who is brash and arrogant at times, but who has delivered the result that was asked of him, even if it was a little fortunate.
This was a match that contained one of the most farcical penalty decisions you are ever likely to see. Kalidou Koulibaly’s arms are not attached to his knees, but Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey apparently thought otherwise as he pointed to the spot towards the end of the first half. Senegal have to take responsibility for losing their heads for Bafana’s second goal, however, too busy arguing with Lamptey to stop a quickly taken free-kick which resulted in Thulani Serero’s strike.
And Bafana did well to fend off a second half onslaught from Senegal.
Ironically, Mashaba got his three points with exactly the same scoreline he managed against the Ivory Coast in June 2003. Mashaba qualified Bafana for the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations finals back then, but did not coach the team in Tunisia. He was sacked after dropping several high-profile names for the finals. Mashaba’s hot-headed nature seems to have caught up with him again. Again there are issues with overseas-based players, with Kamohelo Mokotjo already retiring for now from the international game.
Just like in 2003, I cannot see a way back for the Bafana coach. He has delivered the result but Safa seem determined to find someone else.
I have sympathy with Mashaba. He is a temperamental man, and some of his rants at the media have been delivered from a strange land of fantasy. When he claimed last week, for example, to have received no praise for qualifying the team for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, I nearly fell off my chair laughing.
But Mashaba has, for the most part, a decent record with an average side and most of the players want to play for him. He got his win, and he deserves better than this.