He came, he went, he came again – and it all comes down to the politics of saving face. Nobody could coach Bafana Bafana to 2010 victory, but having an inspirational figure (even if a worse coach) would have been a better option.
Carlos Parreira is now (officially, as of late evening on Friday) the coach of the SA soccer squad. Just by tuning in to any radio station you’ll know he is not exactly a popular choice.
He left us in the lurch, took a huge amount of cash, suggested a replacement who was simply crap, and still feels he’s in the better bargaining position. Why should we want him? The majority of South Africans don’t. They don’t trust him, and when we get thrown out in the second round of the World Cup, he’ll have to be on the first plane out.
The SA Football Association could have gone with a popular choice. A good ‘ole South African coach. Someone like Clive Barker. Someone who knows the players, knows that we, and they, have limitations. Somebody who could have capture the imagination of the public, use the underdog thing, under-promise, and hopefully, over-deliver. That’s got to be better than a foreigner who we can’t even understand properly, who promises the world, and gives us poverty, right?
But the control of sport is about the control of resources, which makes it politics, and Safa managed the resignation of Joel Santana and the return of Parreira exactly like a political party would.
At a few days distance Santana’s resignation now starts to look like any bog-standard British ministerial resignation really. You get the “full support” sound-bytes, then the late night summons to Number Ten, followed by the earnest wish to “spend more time with the family”. Then you get the search for a successor, leaks, during which the recriminations and the spin piles up. You even have the taint of money; without the R1.8 million monthly salary there would have been a lot less bitterness towards the recently departed coach.
Safa found itself in the position of trying to save whatever measure of face it could. It didn’t want to admit that it should never have hired Parreira – or his mate Santana – in the first place. They still want to stick by their claim that South Africa has the players skilful enough to play like Brazilians. That is just sad, and leaves us with a coach who can’t inspire the country (mostly because he barely speaks the language), players who know they’ll be blamed for the team performance (whether that is fair or not) and lasting damage to the sport of football in South Africa.
By Stephen Grootes
(Grootes is an Eye Witness News reporter)