New Bafana coach has plenty work to do

Who­ever Safa hires to take over the seat left va­cant by fired Mashaba is go­ing to have to hit the ground run­ning, fast

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - PAUL MARTIN

IN A few weeks’ time, South African foot­ball fans will know who the next man will be to drink from the foot­ball chal­ice in 2017 when Bafana Bafana will cel­e­brate their 25th an­niver­sary of be­ing ad­mit­ted into Fifa in 1992.

With 16 South African coaches and 10 for­eign­ers hav­ing passed through the SA Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s (Safa) doors in coach­ing the na­tional team, all eyes are on the Africa Cup of Na­tions 2017 in Gabon.

Uganda na­tional coach and for­mer Or­lando Pi­rates men­tor Mi­lutin Sre­do­je­vic, pic­tured, has been widely re­ported as hav­ing put pen to pa­per with Safa to head up Bafana, fol­low­ing the speed­ily en­forced re­moval of for­mer na­tional coach Ephraim “Shakes’ Mashaba for dis­ci­plinary rea­sons.

While the like­able Mashaba is set to have an ad­di­tional 20 years longer added on to his life­span now that he is out of the vi­cious foot­ball pol­i­tics, the new man in charge will need to con­tinue with Safa’s Vi­sion 2022 plan.

The main ob­jec­tive of the na­tional foot­ball body is re­build­ing Bafana so that the na­tion can have a sus­tain­able na­tional team that does not only con­cern it­self with qual­i­fi­ca­tion but must also com­pete to win. Apart from qual­i­fy­ing for World Cups in France (1998), Korea and Ja­pan (2002) and au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the 2010 show­piece which was hosted in the Rain­bow Na­tion, Bafana’s great­est mo­ment was un­doubt­edly lift­ing the African Cup of Na­tions tro­phy on SA soil at their first at­tempt un­der the guid­ance of Clive Barker.

Barker’s cam­paign was per­fectly timed as he in­her­ited a group of tal­ented foot­ballers who were hun­gry to show­case their tal­ents to the world in search of lu­cra­tive club op­por­tu­ni­ties. The recipe of hav­ing ‘the right play­ers, with the right hunger at the right time’ was ever present – some­thing many clubs and na­tional teams bat­tle with across the globe in the mod­ern era of the Beau­ti­ful Game.

Below are just a few chal­lenges that the new man in charge of Bafana will be fac­ing when he takes over.

Fit­ting into the African foot­ball way of do­ing things

Many Euro­pean or South Amer­i­can coaches have bat­tled on this front as the sit­u­a­tion is very dif­fer­ent to coach­ing on other con­ti­nents. An ex­am­ple of this is the SA lower league and youth de­vel­op­ment struc­tures which are way be­hind those of many other coun­tries, al­though Safa have ac­knowl­edged this and shifted their fo­cus to rec­ti­fy­ing th­ese ar­eas.

Get­ting the buy-in of all PSL coaches to adapt to one pat­tern of play

It’s a dif­fi­cult ask as each coach has his own mind­set in terms of want­ing his team to play. It’s also tough get­ting play­ers re­leased on time for Bafana camps, as club coaches want to hang on to their play­ers to the max­i­mum for their own rea­sons plus to safe­guard against po­ten­tial in­jury on the in­ter­na­tional front.

Con­stant feed­back and scout­ing of SA play­ers abroad

This has been an Achilles Heel to many Bafana coaches as what is of­ten por­trayed in me­dia cir­cles, via email or tele­phone in­ter­views with over­seas club sources about for­eign-based SA play­ers may not al­ways be to­tally ac­cu­rate or in line with the Bafana coach’s needs.

Bafana world rank­ing

Cur­rently in 60th place on the Fifa world rank­ings, this doesn’t al­ways help in get­ting friendly in­ter­na­tional matches against top op­po­nents, with the ex­cep­tion of the an­nual Nel­son Man­dela Chal­lenge, where pride and his­tory is on the line due to the name of the event. For non-Man­dela Chal­lenge matches, there is lit­tle doubt that Safa pres­i­dent Danny Jor­daan gets on the phone to wheel a deal or more to se­cure in­ter­na­tional op­po­si­tion for Bafana Bafana.

Fifa in­ter­na­tional week­end (no club matches) dates are cur­rently avail­able on the world body’s web­site through to 2018, so long-term plan­ning is pos­si­ble. When look­ing away from Africa, send­ing Bafana abroad to play in­ter­na­tional friendlies is a costly af­fair, but it is the likely op­tion for two rea­sons. The na­tional side will im­prove by play­ing more reg­u­larly against bet­ter teams.

It will be eas­ier to pin down match dates by send­ing Bafana abroad rather than try­ing to con­vince Euro­pean and North and South Amer­i­can na­tional fed­er­a­tions to send their most prized as­sets all the way to the most south­ern coun­try in Africa which has a fairly av­er­age world rank­ing.

All in all, the new Bafana coach will have much to do on the strate­gic and play­ing side, and even more on the men­tal side in a bid to sat­isfy a tough, un­for­giv­ing foot­ball na­tion.

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