/ 23 October 2009

King coach or deserter?

Bring back Carlos

Football is known to have multitudes of self-appointed coaches. In South Africa they could fill up Orlando Stadium with ease.

The discussions have been emotionally charged and reached a boiling point when the South African Football Association dilly-dallied about firing Joel Santana as head coach. In the past few days the same coaches have reinvented themselves as employers, a job that belongs to new Safa president Kirsten Nematandani and his executive.

Professional coaches know when to ignore these great ”football fundis”, commonly known as the boo boys.

Indications are that the Safa leadership could name Carlos Parreira to steer South African preparations back on track for the World Cup finals. The experienced Brazilian coach is clearly the front-runner and the logical choice.

But ANC Youth League president Julius Malema has led the chorus of those opposed to Parreira getting the nod ahead of locals. The reasons for dismissing the World Cup-winning coach include accusations of abandoning the team.

Nematandani has been a breath of fresh air in the troubled world of local football. The quick and decisive action he meted out to Santana was commendable. Appointing a new coach would require the same level-headedness.

The World Cup is just over eight months away and Parreira is the only hope of turning Bafana into a competitive unit.

Second, Parreira’s experience in this competition is unquestionable, as his colourful CV indicates. He has coached 21 games at different Fifa World Cup finals. Only Bora Milutinovic of Serbia, with five teams, has surpassed Parreira’s record of having coached four national teams at the World Cup finals. Emotions aside, he is the best gamble to turn our stone into bread.

More significantly, Parreira would not be starting from scratch. His first stint began to bear fruit before it was cut short by the need to be beside his sick wife.

It was a choice that any responsible family man would have made under similar circumstances — putting his family first. He has been judged harshly for this act and his critics have even forgotten that wonderful 3-0 win over Paraguay in his last match. It is a victory that clearly demonstrated his abilities as a world-class coach.

Admittedly, it would be great to see local coaches, such as Clive Barker, Gordon Igesund, Jomo Sono, Pitso Mosimane or even Lucas Radebe, as Malema suggests, taking charge of the team. But to be fair to them, there is just not enough time to implement their ideas. A long contract after the World Cup that will correspond with the rebuilding of a national team from the promising Under-20s would be more viable.

Stay in Brazil

In January 2007 Carlos Alberto Parreira took over the reins of Bafana Bafana in an atmosphere of great hope and expectation.
South Africa, as the host nation of the Fifa World Cup 2010, is desperate to put an end to its team’s rapid decline. But Parreira is the not messiah who will take the country back to respectability on the international field of play and lead us to the promised land of the World Cup.

The first official assignment of the World Cup-winning coach was to qualify for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana. But he did it only through the back door in a dismal campaign that included a 3-1 home loss to Zambia.

His second assignment was to perform at the tournament in Ghana. But the highest-paid coach on the continent was back home with Bafana Bafana after the first round. Safa called it a blessing in disguise. The nation mourned.

Public discontent started growing, whereas the coach’s bank account had six zeros in it. His reason for resigning was because his wife was seriously ill and he wanted to spend more time with her. When Parreira took the job his wife was already sick, but he needed the money.

His magic worked so well that he managed to have a headless Safa appoint his mediocre homeboy, Joel Santana, to continue milking the golden cow. Santana rewarded the country with failure to qualify for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.

Let me remind Safa that Parreira, the four-time World Cup coach, has not won a World Cup match with any of the foreign countries he has guided. In France in 1998 he was sacked after two games. It is naive to believe his first win with a foreign nation will come with Bafana Bafana in 2010.

Brazilian coaches are good in their own country only because of the vast number of talented players who are polished in the best European clubs by top European coaches. South American and African players have the skill, but the brains to master the game are in Europe.

If Safa has any hope of achieving any success in 2010, they must look for a coach locally or in Europe.

Gavin Hunt is a coach who, if given the same opportunity as Parreira or Santana, would have been preparing for Angola 2010 instead of nursing a crisis. Why do we undermine our own and promote a mediocre Santana?

Safa must make a transparent decision to put the destiny of South African football in the right hands.


M&G Newspaper