|Taken for Granted: Shakes Mashaba shares a|
giggle with Ghana boss Avram Grant
BAFANA’S homecoming on Saturday lunch-time has set quite a benchmark for future Bafana Bafana coaches. In 35 long and sometimes tedious years of sporting press conferences – from Terror Mathebula to David Beckham, from Hansie Cronje to Muhammad Ali – I have NEVER seen such a performance.
Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba, you are a master of spurious spin, of blatant bluster, of bent bonhomie. In an hour of schmooze and schmaltz, his attempt to mislead the nation failed on only one front. Fact. With one point and a minus three goal difference, his team was the worst at the tournament, level with Burkina Faso. FACT.
Having left Jozi promising success on a par with the 1996 AFCON winners, having said he would not return until after the final on February 8, there was Shakes oozing platitudes about his “heroes”, two of whom had already sloped off home to avoid the fall-out of a disastrous campaign.
He went through EACH ONE of his technical team, from the doctor to the physio, through both of his assistants: Thabo Senong (“He can tell you everything about young stars, even about their grandparents) and Owen da Gama (“He was always bringing the stats, I couldn’t understand all of them”) and on to the desperate media contingent, thanking them for “covering every game”, which surely is their primary task, given the some of them were subsidised by SAFA to be there.
|SHAKES WITH LAUGHTER: Mashaba and Jordaan|
Both Shakes and SAFA’s Rea Ledwaba brazenly behaved as if Bafana had actually returned home after their mysterious THREE DAY DELAY having won the tournament.
Shakes talked of “playing good football” and “not playing second fiddle to anybody” while Ledwaba, apologising for the absence of her president Danny Jordaan, assured us: “We are on track with our Vision 2022 programme”.
Incredible. Shakes told us Bafana should have scored five against Algeria, explained how he “didn’t bother too much about tactics” and told us: “South African players are unique. They achieve more than anybody would expect.”
Mashaba would have made a great politician. Preferably in North Korea, where truth and bluster are entirely unrelated.
Ledwaba’s fawning was outdone only by the journalists in a desperately short question and answer session at the end of the press conference. Every media man presaged his gentle query with “Well done on the tournament coach” or “Welcome home coach, congratulations”. At one point Mashaba grinned: “I keep getting these compliments from you journalists. You say nice things. Perhaps I should have a round of applause.”
The closest thing to a searching question was greeted with incredible spin. Asked why he used three different goalkeepers in Bafana’s three Group C matches, he suggested it was his plan all along. That a true No 1 would not emerge until after an unspecified future camp.
He said: "Three goalkeepers was our vision, we said let us play them individually in each game, that was our plan." THAT WAS HIS PLAN? What utter rubbish.
And worst of all, THIS: “One point comes in to mind: patriotism. Algeria’s French stars were all there, our players let us down.”
Lies. Misleading the nation. In truth, FC Twente's talented midfielder Kamahelo Mokotjo came for Shakes’ first qualifying fixtures, flew to Johannesburg, Khartoum and Cape Town but didn’t get ONE MINUTE on the field before being sent home with Mashaba calling him “heavy”.
Thulani Serero, Kermit Erasmus and Tefu Mashamaite, who featured in qualifying, were slung out without ceremony, older players like Thuso Phala, Bernard Parker and Jackson Mabokgwane appeared in the squad only for AFCON, yet Shakes seemed to feel he stuck with his qualifying heroes, lying even to himself.
In truth is was Shakes who axed vital, younger players after a qualifying success which saw AFCON champions Nigeria fall by the wayside. It was not the players who let him down.
There’s more, some nonsense about “if you don’t believe in my players after this, there must be something wrong with you” and “We are winning, don’t worry” after two defeats and a draw.
All he needed to say of course was "I got carried away before the tournament. We did our best but it wasn't good enough. Next time will be different. Nobody is barred from our squad in future."
Instead, surrounded by Yes Men (and the occasional Yes Woman), Shakes insisted we are going in the right direction, are on course for the next World Cup, thanked everyone who contributed to his “success”. It was, indeed, a masterful performance.
Worryingly, some people might even believe him.
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