Vosloorus Stadium had become somewhat of a slaughterhouse for visiting teams with Shakes Mashaba’s Under-23s qualifying for the 2000 Sydney Olympics at the very same venue, prompting Safa to make it a home for junior national sides.
National sides drew capacity crowds there – a rarity in local football of late.
The Under-20 side were blessed with match-winners of the calibre of Benedict Vilakazi, the late Gift Leremi, Joseph Makhanya and Elrio van Heerden. Augusto Palacios, the Amajita coach at the time, was leading his troops in a qualifying match for the African Youth Championships.
Carlos Queiroz, the Bafana Bafana coach at the time, shunned the VIP area and cut a lone figure in the grandstand, casting a watchful eye on the proceedings.
What brought him to watch Amajita was his knowledge that Bafana can’t exist without the Under-20 side. That he went to watch the junior side showed his understanding of cohesion and synergy between the national sides as the Bafana coach.
As national coach he qualified Bafana for the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup tournaments, but he was shown the door ahead of the spectacle in Korea and Japan having reached the quarterfinals of the African competition.
After he left Safa, Queiroz was quickly snapped up by Manchester United’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson as his assistant at Old Trafford. At the time Bafana striker Sibusiso Zuma questioned how Safa could let go someone so sought after.
Queiroz is one of only a handful of coaches who has a youth development manual gathering dust at Safa House, as does former coach Stuart Baxter, who recommended a youth structure for South African football.
With Gordon Igesund having been shown the door by the mother body on Monday, Queiroz’s name and that of Stephen Keshi has been menwtioned as possible replacements. A call for Queiroz is one which should put South Africa back on the right track.
With Safa’s development agency tasked to look into solving the ills of our soccer at grassroots level, someone like Queiroz would be ideal as his coaching manual is based on development.
An example of the value he would bring to the table is how he patiently built the Iranian national side, who had not qualified for the World Cup in 16 years. This month they will represent their country in Brazil at the World Cup after he guided them through qualification.
Building a team like Bafana needs patience. There is no quick fix. The best national teams in the world today are those who have identified a philosophy and followed it through.
Safa have on a number of occasions bowed to pressure as to who to appoint, but now they should go with a visionary coach who puts the national team’s interests first.
Bafana need a coach who is able to develop our talent.
Queiroz certainly looks the part.