He was to be the saviour, come to rescue a team abandoned by Carlos Alberto Parreira, a feckless man who put such mundane matters as the illness of his wife before duty to his (well, kind of adopted) country. But on Monday the saviour became Joel 'Satana', the man who will be blamed for South Africa's poor showing in the 2010 World Cup.
The foreign media have been reporting it fairly straight, pointing out that “Wold Cup host South Africa” fired its coach just eight months before the event. One or two outlets went so far as to mention Joel Santana’s lack of English as a possible factor in his failure (and one website made cruel fun of his style of speech). Some have focussed on the numbers, such as The Star pointing out that Santana’s monthly salary was almost what cabinet ministers earn annually.
What is notable by its absence is any defence of Santana or criticism of the SA Football Association that pushed him out. Instead there is an air of celebration in everything from newspaper editorials to a statement by Cosatu. Apparently everybody is glad to see the back of this coach that took Bafana Bafana to eight losses in nine matches and a 16-year low in international rankings (South Africa is now sitting nicely at the 85th place).
Now attention turns to Friday, when Safa is expected to announce the return of Carlos Alberto Parreira, the man who recommended Santana as his replacement when he quit in April 2008. From his reported statements, Parreira seems raring to go and won’t need much convincing to take back his old job. Perhaps he realises that for him there is only an upside; if the team makes a respectable showing at the World Cup, he will be hailed as a miracle worker and a genius, and if it performs as miserably as seems inevitable, all the blame will fall on ‘Satana’ alone.
By Phillip de Wet