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Editor's Blog

To Mandate Or Not To Mandate… That Is The Question

The word mandate does something to us, the scribes of South African soccer. The mere mention of it creates a feeding frenzy and, like sharks responding to a drop of blood in the water, we circle the possible victim of a mandate for more details… for deliverables.  
And when these deliverables are not delivered as per the mandate, we insist the carcass be presented to us. If it is not, we are very quick to remind a club or organisation of the mandates that have not been met lest the carcass not be stripped clean. 
The most recent mandate frenzy was caused when recent comments attributed to SuperSport United’s chairman, Khulu Sibiya, led to some quarters of the media inferring that a mandate is in place for Gordon Igesund this season and that if the PSL title is not delivered, then Igesund will be sent packing. 
However, when Soccer Laduma contacted SuperSport CEO Stan Matthews, he said, “I think some of the things that were said by our chairman have been taken out of context. Yes, we have signed Dean Furman and made a couple of other notable signings, so our expectations are high as a club. That is not new because for the last 15 seasons we have finished in the top eight and being near the top is not a mandate. It just reaffirms the standards we have at this club. So there is no mandate, but certainly there are expectations just like there have been for other coaches who have come and gone at SuperSport United.”  
Knowing full well that the term mandate in South African football can be wielded like an axe by the media when a team hits a bumpy patch (which can be more than a little unsettling for technical teams and the players), Igesund will be happy to hear Matthews reiterate that the club is fully behind him and have a long-term vision for success. 
When one considers that Igesund was actually the victim of a so-called failed mandate with Bafana and had to vacate the throne, one would have thought he might be a little more concerned with all the talk surrounding a possible mandate in place at SuperSport, but he was very calm when he told Soccer Laduma, “I have no mandate in my contract to win the title. I’m not a coach that needs a mandate in place to push me to achieve success. I naturally want to win things. Obviously I want to push for the title, but so do five other teams who have bolstered their squads this season. It’s in my nature to want to win. I don’t need a mandate to give my best.” 
Personally I feel that is the battle cry for all of our top coaches in this country. The likes of Gavin Hunt, Pitso Mosimane, Gordon Igesund, Steve Komphela and Eric Tinkler do not need a mandate of winning the league to be held over their heads in order to inspire or motivate them. They are all natural leaders who thrive on success, be it success for the club, for the fans or for themselves, these guys want to win. And if they don’t win, it’s not for lack of trying. Imagine all these guys went into this season with a mandate to win the league or lose their jobs if they fail. Knowing full well that only one of them can win would mean at least five top sides would lose their head coaches at the end of the season (or sooner). This would result in a lack of continuity at our top clubs, which is actually bad for South African football in the long run. So, all things considered, I’m not a big fan of mandates that imply a ‘win-or-leave’ policy. 
Where I do feel there needs to be mandates in place to improve South African soccer is with the clubs themselves – mandates sent out by the PSL to club owners and management that will result in our game and our national team becoming better. I believe that if a PSL club has been in the league for more than two seasons, the club should be mandated to have a fully functional youth academy manned by highly qualified youth coaches. Those clubs that win promotion should get a two-season grace period to consolidate their status before being mandated to put something in place. PSL clubs should be mandated to take ownership of, or take out long-term leases on, stadiums, so that local communities are able to trust and embrace the teams as their own. This ‘have PSL status… will play in a stadium near you soon’ rhetoric is hurting our game. 
When it comes to Bafana, if there are mandates in place for a coach to qualify for major tournaments, those same mandates should also be placed on the president of our association and his management structures, as for too long it seems that head coaches have been made the scapegoats for failure. It can’t be a co-incidence that so much failure has happened at senior and junior national level, yet the blame always sits with the coaches.  
Finally when will our Minister of Sport mandate the inclusion of soccer in our government schools? And not just the schools in poor neighbourhoods! I’m talking about the top government schools in the country, where soccer is still treated like the poor, awkward cousin to smaller national sports like rugby, cricket and even hockey. 
Those are my mandates. I’d like to hear yours.

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