SAFA FAIL VISION 2022 BY DITCHING DA GAMA
By failing to promote Owen da Gama to the vacant Bafana Bafana head coaching position, the South African Football Association have showed that they themselves have little faith in their Vision 2022. SAFA’s new National executive Committee was elected into office in September 2013 and immediately set about adopting a new plan that was aimed at radically transforming South African football. Amid much pomp and ceremony Vision 2022 was then formally adopted and unveiled at SAFA’s NEC meeting in January in Cape Town. An NEC meeting that ironically ran alongside the Championship of African Nations tournament at which host Bafana bombed out in the first round and led to Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s now infamous ‘bunch of losers’ tirade. Gordon Igesund was in charge of the senior men’s national team at the time, but the writing was on the wall.
As expected, Igesund’s contract was not renewed and Ephrahim Shakes Mashaba then returned to coach the side he had lead a decade prior. SAFA correctly argued that central pillar of Vision 2022 was the turnaround strategy which inter alia, focussed on transforming Bafana and other national teams into winners by using a developmental approach. It therefore made sense that Mashaba, who had led the national U20 side to the COSAFA U20 title in Lesotho in December 2013, would be promoted to the Bafana job because he would be instrumental in introducing new blood to the side where Igesund had favoured old crocks. There was immediate success. In 2015, Bafana Bafana qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations or the first time since 2008 and did so unbeaten, with a match to spare.
Fast forward to 2017 where Mashaba has been fired after a serious fallout with SAFA President Dr. Danny Jordaan and South Africans are in search of their 18th Bafana Bafana head coach since readmission in 1992. And whether to you agree with Bra Shakes’ sacking or not, the fact is he has and SAFA have not one iota of desire to reinstate him. It leaves us on the coaching merry-go-round once again with everyone from Father Christmas to your primary school coach being mentioned as candidates. Of those candidates, Herve Renard, Hugo Broos, Carlos Queiroz and Stuart Baxter are the names that keep coming up, with Baxter said to be the frontrunner. Baxter like Queiroz has coached Bafana Bafana before, but unlike Queiroz, he didn’t have much success. Baxter quit after less than two years in the job following his failure to qualify Bafana for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. So why go back to Baxter after he failed the first time? The general feeling is that SAFA were slow to act on the Scotsman’s recommendations on how to improve football development in the country, with Baxter himself admitting that the associations new development focussed approach is what has him considering a return.
But what about da Gama? What about all the Vision 2022 talk about the head coach of the U23’s being assistant coach to the Bafana coach? What about all the talk of continuity? And did da Gama not demonstrate his commitment to promoting players from the junior national teams into the senior ranks when he selected U20 stars Luther Singh and Phakamani Mahlambi in his Bafana squad that thrashed Guinea Bissau 3-1 and drew against Angola? Da Gama also recalled the likes of Kamohelo Mokotjo and Kermit Erasmus, talented players who had been alienated by Mashaba’s hard-line stance on insubordination. This has showed that da Gama is his own man because even though he was part of the Mashaba success of 2014, he has not been afraid to jettison some of Bra Shakes’ tried and tested to select players on form. In da Gama’s squad there was no space for the likes of Thamsanqa Gabuza while Percy Tau and Lebogang Manyama were deservedly called-up. It comes as no surprise then that the former Orlando Pirates and Platinum stars coach admitted that his time as Bafana caretaker coach has been his most fulfilling.
Stuart Baxter may well succeed if he returns to coach Bafana for a second time, but will SAFA recover? For an organisation much maligned and lacking in the foresight necessary to run South African football, Vision 2022 offered a glimmer of hope. And even if they internally do not believe that da Gama has the technical knowhow to succeed as Bafana head coach, they must, if for their reputation alone, promote da Gama to show that for once they have a plan and will stick to it.