“I am Ephraim Mashaba,” he said. “Those who still doubt my qualities to coach the national team are wasting their time. People are still asking whether I am the right person to coach this team. Who is the right person? Who is the right person to coach this team? I am a South African by birth. I deserve to be here. My colour doesn’t stop me from coaching the national team. I want people to know that.”
That’s the defiant tone with which he finished his press conference yesterday in Milpark before Bafana Bafana departed for Swaziland this morning.
Their arrangement, of initially wanting to leave yesterday, had to change because of three players – Lebogang Phiri, Thulani Serero and Kamohelo Mokotjo – arriving late last night. Anele Ngcongca and May Mahlangu (both injured) and Dean Furman didn’t travel with the team to Swaziland. Furman’s team, Doncaster Rovers, asked that he be pardoned as they are fighting for a place in the play-offs for promotion in England. Mashaba will not replace the trio, having chosen a 30-man squad, opting to travel with the remaining 27 men.
Bafana Bafana’s match with Swaziland, tomorrow at Somhlolo Stadium in Lobamba (7pm) will be their first match since a disappointing campaign in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Equatorial Guinea where they went with lots of expectations but returned without a win. Mashaba’s management came under scrutiny after that campaign, having won over the nation with a convincing qualification where they eliminated then-African champions Nigeria. The Super Eagles lie in wait for Bafana Bafana on their return from Swaziland. The two nations resume their rivalry in Mbombela on Sunday.
“The problem with players is that they tend to look at the opposition, and then say ‘ah, this is an easy team’, and you get shocked when they hold or beat you,” Mashaba said.
“We chose Swaziland because we want to test the players’ thinking. We are all from the southern region. If we’ve got a good thing going on, we need to bring them on board.
“Let us start by being champions in our region. Swaziland came as a first option. Sometimes it is not a good thing to get a team that say they will bring their best players and don’t do that. We are going to put our best team against Swaziland. We won’t put out a weak team just because we are playing Swaziland.”