/ 6 October 2009

Tough times for under-fire Santana

Bafana Bafana head coach Joel Santana’s days are getting darker.

New South African Football Association (Safa) president Kirsten Nematandani has moved quickly to halt Bafana’s slide and hopes to appoint SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt and two former Bafana coaches, Clive Barker and Jomo Sono, to assess the team’s performances.

Bafana leave for Europe on Tuesday night for two friendly matches — against Norway in Oslo on Saturday and Iceland in Reykjavik next Tuesday — and Santana knows that his new bosses are going to be much tougher to please than the old regime, and mediocrity will not be tolerated.

Nematandani and his new committee have made no bones about the fact they are fed up with the poor results that Bafana and Santana have delivered since the Confederations Cup in June.

Nematandani warned after the Safa annual general meeting last month — where he was the shock winner unopposed for the presidency — that getting Bafana back on track for next June’s World Cup finals was one of his major priorities.

The new Safa boss said after his first meeting with his new national executive council (NEC) that they were worried about the way Bafana have been performing.

He said: ”We have not made any judgements as yet. But we need to get Bafana back to their winnings ways and fast. Hopefully the input by Sono, Hunt and Barker will assist the NEC to decide the way forward.”

Bafana have lost six of their last seven matches. Their only win was a lucky 1-0 home victory over Madagascar, ranked 131 in the world.

But the new Safa boss also disclosed that the idea was only hatched at Tuesday’s NEC meeting. ”I have not spoken to Barker, Sono or Hunt, but I am sure they will come to assist us. We as the new Safa leadership need to know what is going on a ground level with Bafana,” Nematandani said

In other words, should Santana fail against both Norway and Iceland, he can virtually kiss his R1,4-million per month job goodbye.

Santana is at this stage unaware of these new developments. But they will add to the pressure. Last week Santana was described as a ”dead man walking” when he named his squad for these two friendly matches.

The local media called for his head, but Santana refused to budge. Nematandani said that while he demanded results he wanted to support Santana and give him a chance. The stubborn and ultra-conservative Santana has refused to deal with local coaches and listen to advice.

But it appears that Safa has had enough and have given Santana enough rope now to hang himself if he again fails to deliver. — Sapa