Bafana Coach Fired, Now What?

By Editor | June 7th, 2012 4 Comments

Guest post by Mohlomi Maubane

The Germans regularly find a way to excel in tournaments and are among the favourites to win the Euros in Poland/Ukraine. The South African football fraternity would do well to take a page out of the playbook that produced the current incarnation of Die Manschschaft when appointing a new Bafana Bafana coach. SAFA fired Pitso Mosimane this week after Bafana Bafana could only muster a 1-1 draw against Ethiopia in a 2014 World Cup qualifier in Rustenburg.

Eight years ago, the German national team was in dire straits after failing to win a single match in the group stages of the 2004 Euros. A rebirth seemed inevitable, and the newly appointed technical team of Jürgen Klinsmann and Joachim Löw pursued it with typical German precision.

Their first step was to give Die Manschschaft a new identity. The duo settled on a style based on playing the ball on the ground and transitioning swiftly from defence to attack. This was the outcome of an extensive consultation process. Workshops were held with German coaches and players to inquire how they wanted to play and how they wanted to be seen to be playing by their fans (and international ones too). Members of the German public also enjoyed the opportunity to provide input on how they wanted the national side to play.

From this inclusive process, Klinsmann and Löw drafted a curriculum for German football that was presented to the Bundesliga and the German FA. The latter then pressured teams in the former to build academy programmes that adhered to the overall strategy. Bundesliga teams were also encouraged to adopt a fitness programme that enabled the philosophy to be implemented. The newly appointed Under-21 coach also had to abide by the new policy.

Klinsman and Löw then sought a public buy-in for their plan. The two coaches explained what they were trying to build and stressed that this process required a solid foundation, perseverance, and time to develop. After the debacle of 2004, Germany reached the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup, the final of the 2008 Euros, and again the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2010. Klinsmann left the national team after the 2006 World Cup, but Löw carried on with the project, ensuring that the Germans played a fluid, enterprising game and stuck to the philosophy irrespective of who their opponents were.

Bafana Bafana had failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup and so did not experience first-hand the initial phase of this new era in German football. Five months prior to the tournament, Bafana Bafana had been booted out of the African Nations Cup in Egypt without scoring a single goal. Ted Dumitru was axed after this dismal showing, and his assistant Pitso Mosimane was appointed interim coach. Later, Carlos Alberto Parreira took over the job, with Mosimane returning to an apprenticeship role. The 1994 World Cup winning coach’s tenure was divided into two spells, with fellow Brazilian Joel Santana stepping in when Parreira had to return to Brazil to support his ailing wife. Santana was in charge of Bafana Bafana at the 2009 Confederations Cup, but Parreira returned to lead the charges at the World Cup the following year.

Immediately after South Africa’s ground-breaking performance at the 2010 World Cup — becoming the first host nation to be knocked out in the first round — Mosimane ascended to the position of full-time Bafana Bafana coach. Self-anointed as one of the best coaches in Africa, this week Mosimane lost his job after Bafana, 68th in the FIFA rankings, scrambled to a 1-1 draw against the visiting Ethiopians ranked 130th. Mosimane’s bark is worse than his bite, and even though his axing was long overdue, he is merely a symptom of the general malaise affecting South African football.

It’s a condition for which a cure will not be found among the Big Men at SAFA. This bunch of inefficient and often inept bureaucrats operate out of a glistening new Soccer City headquarters funded by FIFA. They are not all bad, of course. Some of the veteran administrators fought against apartheid, unified local football, got South Africa readmitted to international football, and brought the World Cup to these shores. However, the way forward is unlikely to come from them.

Pitso Mosimane was the first former Bafana Bafana player to graduate to the national team managerial position, and his peers who ply their trade as administrators must help chart the way forward for South African football. The answer is right in front of their eyes. Steven Pienaar, the Bafana Bafana captain, is a shining example of what a well-structured and efficient development programme can produce. He is a graduate of the SAFA/Trasnet School of Excellence, an academy established in the Madiba years where youngsters could acquire an education and polish their football skills, After Pienaar’s departure, however, the academy was left to decay and it took its rightful place next to the so-called schools for Black kids where classrooms come in the form of tree shades.

I have yet to hear a young football administrator — always quick to declare undying love for the beautiful game into a microphone or television camera — spell out a clear and informed vision for the growth and development of football in this country. These functionaries seem content to bask in the proximity of and on first-name basis with the Big Men, reaping whatever fruits come with that association. Irrespective of how Germany fares at the 2012 Euros, in the past six years Die Manschschaft have demonstrated what can be achieved, not with rocket science, but with inclusive decision making, efficient planning, and timely execution. It should inspire the South African football establishment to leave a worthy legacy for future generations.


Chimene Pereira

June 8th, 2012 | 1:27 am    

I totally agree, participatory planning rather than a technocratic approach to building and managing a national team is pertinent. Nonetheless, with the public, local football teams, players abroad, and management not voicing out their concerns in an inclusive public debate we are stuck where we are. It’s high time that the top down approach be deemed as archaic and bottom up approach be the order of the day when it comes to the national team. This should be applicable across all sporting codes.

On the other hand I am glad that Pitso is gone, I never have seen a self-proclaimed arrogant person not yielding positive results, I need not dwell on this, it is a shame what he thinks was right was the total opposite. What should be done now by SAFA are contracts that are performance based according to the football calendar.

Solomon Waliaula

June 8th, 2012 | 1:46 am    

Punkt! The comparative analysis is precise and needed a German expression to acknowledge it. South African football cannot and should not be left in the hands of SAFA. What is needed is a well thought out, crafted, and executed plan of improving the standards of the game by the national team. This is possible because I imagine the money is there, and the need is even more acute. One more point of comparison though … like Germany, South Africa can afford to fund this programme , the former’s economy is the biggest in Europe, and the latter’s is the biggest in Africa! So what excuse can we give?


June 13th, 2012 | 4:19 am    

Great post. I would add that SA clubs need to invest money and people in youth development, not just SAFA. Also, picking up on Mohlomi’s cue, here’s a piece by News24’s Sbu Mseleku calling for a Moses in SA football:

Cora Burnett

June 15th, 2012 | 2:09 am    

South Africa is embarking on implementing a coaches framework that will provide the upskilling of coaches from grassroots level – maybe this is a small light at the end of a tunnel. Not all first world models will work for SA, but local coaches can learn from the best.

Leave a reply

Name *

Mail *