Ballsy Mashaba Not Afraid To Show His Hand…
In an age where football has become a science, where formations and tactics remain secretive, it is refreshing to see a coach like Shakes Mashaba who is not afraid to show his hand.
Since taking over at Bafana Bafana in July, Shakes has not been one for secrecy. His training sessions are open, even the day before a game, and you can pretty much sum up from the sessions on who will be selected for his starting XI.
Mashaba has pioneered a 10-game unbeaten streak during his reign so far, a feat made even more impressive given that six of those games were official African Cup of Nations qualifiers, and before every clash his team has been announced the day before.
Today, as Bafana look to take on Algeria in undoubtedly the toughest game of his spell so far, Shakes gave it a bit of time and released his team early in the morning rather than the night before, but the premise of it is the same.
The decision to release the team is as much a mind-game as it is a welcome change for the media and the fans. Releasing the team 10, 15, or 20 hours before the game shows a certain level of assuredness… It says “Here’s what we’re going to do, what can you do about it?” throwing down the gauntlet to the opponent.
Mashaba has so much faith, so much confidence in his players, that he seems to be unfazed by the idea that such tactics can allow opponents to plan for his team in advance, rather than having to adapt when the starting XI is released an hour before the start of the game.
Arrogance is probably the wrong word, but it’s a self-assured take on the game that is in stark contrast to that of former coach, Gordon Igesund, who would tell the media to leave training sessions, worried about opponents getting hold of his starting XI.
Kaizer Chiefs head coach, Stuart Baxter, once told me that he knew his side were the most predictable team in the league when it came to their starting XI, but that they were also the toughest team to beat. In short, just because an opposition can plan for you, it doesn’t always mean that they can beat you.
Fellow journalists, Velile, John and Jonty (who are currently in Equatorial Guinea) explained last night how Mashaba conducted his pre-match press conference in isiZulu after our SA journalists were denied a translator when the Algerians spoke in Arabic.
After years of rolling out the red carpet for each and every opponent, trying so hard to be the nice guy, Shakes stood his ground and stood up for his fellow South Africans. I think that is fantastic.
Like I say, it’s nice to see such a ballsy display from a Bafana coach, a man so assured of his team’s ability that he isn’t afraid to show his hand, even when coming up against the best team in the continent at present.
Shakes’ confidence is contagious. In six months he’s managed to turn even the biggest pessimist into a hopeful optimist regarding Bafana’s present and future, and he’s done so with a smile on his face.