Real leaders leave a legacy that they will be remembered by for generations to come. Not everyone who has been in a position of leadership gets remembered or celebrated because leadership isn’t always fashionable.
Former Bafana Bafana head coach, Shakes Mashaba, may not be involved with any of our national teams or actively involved in the Beautiful Game anymore, but his role and contribution is one thing that can never be taken away from him. His legacy is there for everyone to see, his leadership qualities on and off the field should be celebrated and therefore never forgotten.
It was Shakes Mashaba who introduced Thabo Senong to the South African football fraternity, when he roped him in as an assistant, amid mixed reactions from everyone as little to nothing was known of the diminutive coach at the time. Today Senong is the Lesotho senior national team coach, having coached and won the 2017 COSAFA U20 Cup, among other highlights of his young coaching career. He led his team to the 2017 U20 Africa Cup of Nations, 2017 U20 FIFA World Cup, 2019 U20 Africa Cup of Nations and U20 FIFA World Cup. It was Shakes who planted that international football seed and introduced the 38-year-old Senong to the broader football world.
The same Mashaba was responsible for Highlands Park head coach, Owen da Gama’s return to the football fraternity after years of absence in the elite league. Who knows what could have happened to Da Gama’s coaching career, especially when it looked like no one was prepared to touch him with a barge pole following the allegations that he solicited bribes from his players in order to field them at Platinum Stars? Even when he was cleared of any wrongdoing, the doubts lingered over him. Again, Mashaba’s choice was met with mixed reactions, but he stood firm as he believed in his former coach at Orlando Pirates, where he was the team manager. Today, it is history that Da Gama has successfully promoted Highlands Park to and kept them in the Absa Premiership. Rubber Doll is on the verge of leading his side to the MTN8 final, if they manage to negotiate their way past Polokwane City in the second leg of the semi-finals next week.
Through his leadership during his Bafana tenure, Mashaba was on the forefront of ensuring there was continuity and progression from junior to senior team. The cohesion that has since been established is bearing fruits and it is clear to see that the senior coaches are working hand-in-hand with their junior counterparts. It was Shakes who encouraged an open and transparent working relationship, where he invited junior coaches to be part of the senior national team where they’d be exposed to their philosophy and style. If there was a way to ensure that none of our deserving young players fall through the cracks again, this was definitely it. Proof is the fact that Teboho Mokoena can form an integral part of both the National U23 and senior team, with the two technical teams using him where he is needed most.
Today we have Ntseki Molefi who was recently appointed as the permanent Bafana Bafana, having ticked all the boxes through what has surely been Mashaba’s blueprint. Now Ntseki knows every player that’s been in the national team system from every division because, thanks to Shakes’ leadership, they all operate from the same page. While we may not see the fruits of it all now, especially with Shakes no longer in the picture, those who have worked with him and pay attention to what he’s achieved for South African football will attest to the fact that Shakes is a leader.
The recent press conference called by former players and coaches, Wedson Nyirenda, Pitso Mosimane, Steve Komphela, Cavin Johnson and Kalusha Bwalya, to denounce the ongoing xenophobic attacks and femicide in South Africa proved that our football still has leaders. In a time when many are burying their heads in shame and deciding to ‘play safe’ by keeping quiet, it isn’t fashionable to lead, but these gentlemen decided to take a stand and make themselves heard. Some leaders are quiet because they are ashamed of the possible backlash should they open their mouths, as they are guilty of the same actions they are expected to speak out against. That’s why we have to salute the five gentlemen for their courageous act and for ensuring that we don’t run short of leaders. Bafana missed out on the friendly game that was supposed to take place last weekend because of the xenophobic attacks and we missed out on seeing what changes the new coach, Ntseki, brings to the national team. Here’s to hoping that people learned their lesson and that more leadership will prevail.