The South African Football Association just can’t seem to stay out of the news for all the wrong reasons! It is like our football mother body is on some self-destruct mode, at the rate things are going.
At first, SAFA fired coach Molefi Ntseki for failing to qualify for Cameroon 2021 publicly in his absence. As if that wasn’t enough, news broke that the Association had not even received the coach’s technical report before the decision to part ways with him was taken. A few days later, it emerged that Ntseki knew nothing about his sacking and that he had not parted ways with Bafana Bafana. While that was still the talk of the town, our SAFA announced the appointment of the 69-year-old Belgian mentor, Hugo Broos, amid fanfare. The less said about the announcement of this appointment and that press conference, the better!
With everything looking hunky-dory, the powers that be at SAFA released a statement that they had parted ways with coach Ntseki “amicably”. Yes, the amicable parting of ways – after the coach had been fired a few weeks earlier – happened after the appointment of the new Bafana coach. Still, at the time, the now former Bafana coach had been quiet and politely turned down our interview requests as he had a few things to sort out with the Association. Naturally, our journalists had to respect the coach’s position and they did. Before we knew it, our Siya crew revealed that there was something in the pipeline for the former Bafana coach, as he was earmarked for a technical position at, you guessed right, SAFA! Unbelievable! What seemed to be just another speculative story turned out to be very much true. Speculative in the sense that no one, in their right mind, fires someone they are looking to hire again in a short space of time, you’d think. I know this is confusing, so please bear with me because I find this whole circus as confusing as you do.
Fast-forward to coach Broos’ much-anticipated arrival in the country and he had a lot of people eating out of his hand in his first few media interviews. The experienced mentor made some interesting remarks about our football and laid his vision on the table for everyone to see. We were all happy to finally have a coach. I was particularly happy to know that, for the first time in years, we had a coach who had signed a five-year contract with SAFA, which is unheard of. This was supposed to be good news because, on paper, it meant there would be stability, continuity and there was a plan and vision to take our football to greater heights. You don’t give someone that kind of a contract without the points I’ve just mentioned. Two years is a long time on the Bafana coaching seat. Coach Broos went on record to confirm that he would be appointing a local assistant coach to work with his first assistant, the Macedonian mentor, Cedomir Janevski, who is expected in the country this week. Broos told the media about the profile of the potential local assistant and his expectations.
It wasn’t long after that when the coach announced his predecessor, Ntseki, as his local assistant. Looking at this choice, I was particularly happy because it meant more continuity as Ntseki needs no introduction to SAFA structures as he’s worked with pretty much every national team before he was roped into the senior national team set-up. I also believe that Bafana’s problems are bigger than just a head coach, which is why I never saw coach Ntseki as a failure. SAFA have invested a lot in Ntseki and it would be unwise to see him disappear from the system. Broos said he’s met with Ntseki, twice, and the former Bafana head coach was happy to join him. He even referred to his ‘new local assistant’ as a football person and an encyclopaedia. Just this past week, SAFA denied the appointment of Ntseki as the second assistant to coach Broos. Yes, you heard right! SAFA distanced themselves from their head coach’s announcement on Friday, with the following statement: “Contrary to widespread news, SAFA would like to clarify to all football fans that the Association has NOT appointed any local Assistant Coach for Bafana Bafana. The name making headlines is NOT the Association’s position. The SAFA NEC will appoint a local Assistant Coach soon.” Who’s fooling who here? SAFA, what’s going on?
We’ve been reliably informed that the Technical Committee, which is responsible and accountable for all the technical appointments, know nothing about Ntseki’s appointment, let alone the meetings he’s alleged to have had with coach Broos! This begs the following questions, among others: who facilitated these meetings between coach Broos and Ntseki? Where did the meetings take place? Who did coach Broos speak to about Ntseki’s appointment? SAFA, what’s going on here? Did coach Broos meet the real Ntseki or is this a case of mistaken identity, perhaps?
Almost everyone was excited about coach Broos’ vision to refresh the Bafana squad, as the average age of the current team proved to be one of his immediate worries. What has become evident is that younger players will be a priority for the senior national team under the new mentor, if his recent statements are anything to go by. He’s also made it clear that being based overseas doesn’t guarantee a place in the national team anymore. Both points are valid, but what informed the coach’s statements? What does he really know about South African football and players? Firstly, look at all the DStv Premiership and, to a certain extent, GladAfrica Championship teams and tell me how many U23 players are enjoying regular game-time? How many young players have been part of our senior national team and played regularly in the last five seasons or so? How do you change all of that, overnight, with the World Cup qualifiers upon us?
I would have expected the current coach to spend his first month or two visiting and meeting the DStv Premiership and GladAfrica Championship coaches and their respective clubs to get an idea of what is going on in our football. He and his first assistant need to familiarize themselves with local football, coaches and players as soon as possible rather than making headlines about his vision because that same vision will be blurred without the local players and coaches. They are going to need them because the same players he will rely on will have to come from these clubs and coaches. A sound relationship with local coaches should be a priority for any national team coach.
Now back to SAFA, is or will Ntseki be Bafana’s second assistant as per the head coach’s announcement? Does SAFA really not know what coach Broos is doing? What’s going on at SAFA House?