/ 15 October 2009

Santana dismisses calls for his head

A defiant Bafana Bafana head coach Joel Santana on Thursday dismissed calls for his head.

But the ball is not in Brazil-born Santana’s court whether he likes it or not.

Speaking after the South African squad arrived at the OR Tambo Airport following another two shocking defeats against Norway and lowly Iceland, Santana said he was hired to guide Bafana to the 2010 World Cup finals on home soil and that he was happy with the squad’s progress — despite losing the last eight of nine friendly matches played since June.

”I do not know of any national coach in the world who was fired because he lost friendly matches. I do not think I will be fired,” Santana said.

However, the South African Football Association (Safa) vice-president and head of delegation to Norway and Iceland, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, spelt it out when he said Bafana had shamed the nation and that it was back to the drawing board.

”Safa will be meeting with the coach [Santana] to discuss the team’s poor performances,” said Nonkonyana.

”We will be discussing my report as head of delegation and those of the three assessors on the Iceland match, after which Safa will release a statement early next week on how we will move forward and get Bafana winning again.”

The drama started last week when new Safa president Kirstin Nematandani announced that his executive committee had appointed three assessors — former Bafana coaches Clive Barker, Jomo Sono and SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt — to assess the team.

Earlier this week Nematandani said Santana had until after the next two friendly games against Japan, to be played either at Orlando Stadium or in Rustenburg on November 14, and the clash against Jamaica in Bloemfontein on November 17 to pull Bafana right.

However, with acting Safa president Alf Mnchunu backing Nonkonyana on Thursday, stating that the ”performances against Norway and Iceland were best forgotten”, it is clear Santana’s days are numbered.

But despite the clamouring for his head, Santana was in total denial on Thursday at an impromptu press briefing, going on about how well the players were doing and that ”we are on track for 2010”.

He was in dreamland after Bafana limped through and lost against ordinary opposition, saying he was encouraged by what he had seen and that he still hoped for a successful World Cup.

”I am more positive than I was when I took charge of Bafana 17 months ago that we will have a very good World Cup next year,” Santana said.

”That is what I am here to do — to ensure Bafana does well next June. I am disappointed we lost but we blooded a couple of good new players.”

He also said that he chose not get involved in ”politics” over calls for him to be sacked.

”I am here to coach Bafana,” he said, ”not to get involved in politics.”

However, Santana showed he was out of touch by stating he was happy with individual performances against Norway in Oslo at the weekend and against 96th ranked Iceland in Reykjavik on Tuesday night.

The fact that he is happy with below par mediocre displays shows has lost the plot and is hanging on to his R1,4-million per month job by a thread. And it seems that thread is about to be cut. — Sapa