The play­ers who in­spired Bafana

Farouk Khan re­veals the rea­sons he be­lieves Bafana have done so well

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - MAT­SHE­LANE MAM­ABOLO

BAFANA Bafana’s first qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the African Cup of Na­tions (Af­con) fi­nals since 2008 was as sur­pris­ing as it was stun­ning.

Com­ing as it did with­out a sin­gle loss in six matches by a squad teem­ing with a bunch of un­knowns, the suc­cess has served to con­firm Shakes Mashaba’s sta­tus as a mir­a­cle worker of sorts.

Termed by some as ‘a cheap op­tion’ for the Safa, who were ini­tially chas­ing after big name, in­ter­na­tional coaches – Mashaba has not only booked Bafana a place at the con­ti­nent’s top event but did so in style.

That his more revered pre­de­ces­sors had failed on two oc­ca­sions, in 2010 and 2012, helped Mashaba serve large help­ings of hum­ble pie to his de­trac­tors.

This after all, is a coach who had pre­vi­ously earned the coun­try a ticket to the self-same con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tion back in 2004, only to be kicked out be­fore the tour­na­ment.

It is the same coach un­der whom the na­tional Un­der-20 side be­came the first na­tional team to qual­ify for a World Cham­pi­onship (in 1997) and the Un­der-23 side played at the Olympics back in 2000.

Be­fore he took over the sen- ior side, Mashaba had just seen to the un­der 20s qual­i­fy­ing for the con­ti­nen­tal tour­na­ment to be played next year. So, while there were those who felt Safa made a fi­nan­cial decision in their choice of re­place­ment for Gor­don Ige­sund, the dis­cern­ing soc­cer fan would have known there was a very good chance Mashaba would de­liver.

Yet few, if any, would have fore­seen him turn­ing things around as spec­tac­u­larly as he

has. Not when Bafana had be­come the laugh­ing stock of the con­ti­nent, the joke be­ing that the only time our na­tional team got to par­tic­i­pate in com­pe­ti­tions was as hosts. En­ter Mashaba and all that has changed, with Bafana likely to ar­rive in Equa­to­rial Guinea as one of the dark horses. But how did he do it?

How did Mashaba turn a Bafana squad that sports min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula only last year called ‘a bunch of losers’ fol­low­ing their im­plo­sion in the African Cham­pi­onships (CHAN)?

Farouk Khan, pic­tured, a for­mer mem­ber of the Safa tech­ni­cal team, has watched all of Bafana’s six qual­i­fy­ing matches and here the renowned TV an­a­lyst gives what he be­lieves it are the three fac­tors that Mashaba got right.

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