Goodbye, Pitso (hello same old problem)

By Sipho Hlongwane 5 June 2012

Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane has been sacked by the South African Football Association after an unimpressive start to the 2014 World Cup qualifier campaign. Gordon Igesund is widely expected to replace him, but some of the factors that contributed to South Africa’s run of poor form of late will not leave with the departing manager. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.

Pitso Mosimane, the head coach of the South African national football team, otherwise known as Bafana Bafana, has been sacked following a string of bad results. The final decision was taken on Monday, after the team drew 1 – 1 against Ethiopia in the first qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup.

Though there were some positives to be drawn from the game, the national football executives could not abide the thought of South Africa failing to qualify for yet another international tournament under Mosimane’s tenure, according to the source who asked not to be named.

Safa CEO Robin Peterson journeyed to Rustenburg on Monday, where the team is based, to deliver the news.

Though no official announcement has been made by Safa at the time of publishing, Moroka Swallows coach Gordon Igesund is widely expected to take over from Mosimane. Bafana play Botswana on 9 June in the next qualifier and it is likely that assistant coach Steve Komphela will be in charge of the side during that match.

Under Mosimane’s watch, South Africa played 16 matches, won six, drew seven and lost three.

The initial idea of hiring Mosimane after the 2010 World Cup (in which Safa hired Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who failed to get us past the group stages of the competition) was a good one – he had previously been the Under-23 coach and knew many of the players in the national squad. Prior to that he had spent six years as a very successful manager of Premier Soccer League side Supersport United.

The earliest results under Mosimane backed Safa’s decision to hire him. Bafana won four of their first six fixtures, despatching teams like Ghana and Egypt in the process. But after beating Burkina Faso in September 2011, the team went six games in a row without a win.

And in that awful streak, South Africa’s lowest footballing moment came: we failed to qualify for the 2012 African Cup of Nations because of not studying the fine print of the Confederation of African Football – which governs the tournament – rules.

In October last year, Bafana played a match against Sierra Leone in Nelspruit. Under the impression that a draw would suffice (which is exactly what the team got) the players danced around at the end of the match, thinking they had secured a qualification for the Afcon tournament.

According to Caf rules for the Afcon at the time, South Africa needed to win in order to gain an advantage in head-to-head results. Goal difference was not enough. Having heard that league leaders Niger were losing to Egypt in the other qualifying match, Mosimane changed tactics in Nelspruit and settled for a draw.

Mosimane was blamed for the miscalculation, though the mistake appeared to have been made by the other football administrators as well.

“It’s very sad for South Africa because the country deserves to be in next year’s Nations Cup. I feel like I have failed,” he said afterwards.

“Africa is a jungle, my friend,” he continued. “The European and South American formats are so much better because everything is running smoothly, but it’s very difficult to play in Africa.”

The Bafana failures have been mounting at an alarming rate since the Confederations Cup, where the team finished as losing runners-up. South Africa became the first host country in the history of the World Cup not to progress past the group stages. The team then failed to qualify for the 2012 Afcon, and now we seem set to throw away the chance to play in the Brazil World Cup in two years’ time.

After the Ethiopia match, and perhaps sensing the grim reaper’s oncoming steps, Mosimane lashed out at Safa for not investing enough in development.

“You see, in South Africa we don’t want to accept reality – things have not been going well for us since we won the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations. But we are not changing the formula,” he said. “We have a problem but you are going the same way – we must do things right in terms of our development programmes.

“We don’t want to accept that the world is catching up with us,” Mosimane said. “We don’t want to accept that we are not scoring goals, and don’t want to accept that our development is not good.”

Parreira made a similar sort of warning before he departed for Brazil in 2010. “The PSL is very strong and well organised and there’s money there, but it doesn’t help that there are no youth leagues. You can’t make progress without them. Youngsters are the way forward, and it would be a good idea to invest in this. In Brazil we have a talent factory that runs 24 hours a day, shift after shift, and that’s our greatest strength,” he said. DM


Photo: Pitso Mosimane (Reuters)


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