They say you should never go back, but that doesn’t seem to apply to Bafana Bafana
It’s not often that a football manager will return to his former stomping ground. In living memory, Manchester United have never gone back to a former manager. Mind you, Sir Alex Ferguson was their manager for longer than most people on earth have been alive. The same applies to Arsenal, although London rivals Chelsea have gone back recently with the return of José Mourinho to Stamford Bridge last season. Mind you, he is The Special One.
Sadly, this rule does not apply to Bafana Bafana.
If you flew off into space in 1992 and only returned to earth in 2014, you would presume that Bafana Bafana must have been a staggering success. After all, Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba was the coach of Bafana when you left and he wasstill in charge when you returned. However, sandwiched inbetween there were 15 other coaches, making a total of 17 in 22 years. United had three managers in that time.
Arsenal have had just 18 coaches in the last 114 years, while Manchester City have had 21 in the time United had 3! Mind you, after the Special One’s couple of glory years at Chelsea, owner Roman Abramovich went on a firing spree, resulting in 10 management changes in the past 10 years. Chelsea enjoyed some good success in that decade, but fans feel they would have achieved more with a greater sense of continuity.
As for Bafana, all we’ve done was win the African Nations Cup in ’96. We hosted the World Cup in 2010, but so gracious were we as hosts that we failed to get out of the group stages – and some people doubt we would have played in 2010 were it not for our automatic qualification as hosts.
Worst of all, Bafana have had 24 changes of managers in what has become like a magical mystery tour of musical chairs. Mashaba has held the reins 4 times in this 17-year spread. Four times! Surely if you like someone that much you’ll just hold onto him? And if you keep letting him go… then maybe he’s not the one? Others who we’ve repeatedly gone back to are Jomo Sono (3 times), Trott Moloto and Pitso Mosimane (two tours of duty apiece). This constant back and forth between coaches is possibly more worrying than the high number of changes overall. We seem desperate, as if we don’t have a solution and don’t know where we should be looking for one.
Is it the coaches or the players? If you’re a Man United fan you’ll know it’s the manager, even though they had some truly great players. So we have to ask: what would Fergie do with Bafana?
All things considered, he would probably say ‘thanks, but no thanks’. He’s got nothing to prove – and it might just be impossible to prove anything with Bafana. Or would it? As long as he had a translator who could help us all understand Glaswegian, this is what I think he would do.
First, he would send the Bafana boys a DVD of Fergie’s Greatest Hits.
Hit 1 – Cantona past his sell-by date: Out. Hit 2 – Beckham getting too big for his branded boots: Out. Hit 3 – Roy Keane getting too miserable: Out.
Second, he would do it ‘his way’ (see right). If you gave Fergie a sacred cow, he would slaughter it if it was for the good of his team. He’d throttle it with his bare hands if he had to. I think therein lies the problem. Fergie has had years to build a reputation which has given him the time to develop into one of sport’s lasting legacies.
Bafana need to do that. They need to find the right man and put him IN CHARGE and then BACK HIM. Let him mould the team in his own image – for several years. The challenge for the administrators would be dealing with the internal politics, external politics, social pressure, cultural pressure – crumbs, sometimes they might even have to deal with soccer-related pressure!
We call on Bafana to blaze us a trail
Bafana have not won anything of substance for almost 20 years so do we really, really, really have anything to lose by taking a long-term gamble? Give The Chosen One the chance to either wreck us or lift us off into a bright new future.
SA needs someone who is passionate and who sees it as their calling and who knows they have some time to build something of value. This is the challenge, because the players can’t have belief in themselves if their leader keeps changing. With a strong manager, it allows him to groom a strong onfield leader, like Fergie did with Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, David Beckham. Powerful men, almost like the Clive Lloyd of West Indies cricket.
That’s what Bafana need and, as a football-loving nation, we deserve it. We have great talent and astonishing passion, yet our beautiful national game is being run and ruined by politics – and without a leader.
Sometimes all that’s needed for success is to make a decision and stick to it – right or wrong. Decide and press forward. If we can do that with a
manager and a captain then what great glory might be awaiting us? However, if we don’t get it right then the next time we play in the World Cup probably be in 2204 – when our turn to host the World Cup comes around again!