|SINK OR SWIM: AmaGlugGlug in Dakar on Sunday|
ANOTHER bad week for South African football. Another series of questions which will remain unanswered. Sheez. It's a Tale of Two Pities this week.
As South Africa’s U23s were crushed 3-1 by hosts Senegal in the 8-nation CAF Olympic qualifiers and Orlando Pirates were beaten 1-0 in Tunisia by Etoile du Sahel, it’s hard to find crumbs of comfort.
Just two weeks ago Danny Jordaan, the SAFA President who spends most of his time trying to sort out Port Elizabeth’s political problems, was remarkably upbeat.
He told us: “South African football is on the up. Banana Bafana beat Angola in the World Cup, our Under 23s could qualify for Rio 2016 and Orlando Pirates could win the CAF Confederations Cup.”
But a fortnight is a long time in football.
As we hold our heads in our hands we have to consider FACTS. At AFCON 2015, we finished BOTTOM of our group. We are currently BOTTOM of our group in qualifying for AFCON 2017. Our U17 AmaJimbos finished BOTTOM of their group in the World Cup in Chile. And now our U23s are BOTTOM of their group in Senegal.
Of course, for Owen da Gama’s youngsters, once known as AmaGlugGlug, the bottle is still half full. They have Zambia and Tunisia to come in Group A. Anything could happen. Just thank God they’re not in Group B with Algeria, Egypt, Mali and Nigeria.
No independent journalists travelled to Senegal but I have an associate who jetted up on Friday. His reaction to the Senegal defeat was pretty harsh. The main problem: Rivaldo Coetzee’s sudden appearance in the U23 ranks.
The Ajax Cape Town youngster was not involved in any of the build-up, but was drafted straight in to the side despite arriving a day late because he lost his passport. His presence appeared to disrupt a settled defence and encourage those who feel agent Tim Sukazi’s men are always given preference in South African football affairs.
Coach Owen da Gama, apparently appointed by Shakes Mashaba without SAFA’s technical team discussing the role, said: “Some players did not pitch up which had a massive influence on the game and impacted on the rest of the team.”
Hardly encouraging for the former Platinum Stars coach, a known Sukazi man. Personally, I’d like to see a top young PSL coach given the U23 job. Da Gama seemed to just assume the mantle, like inexperienced Thabo Senong with the U20s.
But Owen can still bounce back in Senegal: “We take the loss as a team, just like we have taken wins as a team. What we don’t need now is the blame game or finger pointing. It just wasn’t our day.”
It wasn’t Tinkler’s day on Sunday either. Defeat means Pirates take the R6m runners-up cheque from CAF but that’s the only good news.
Currently 11th in the PSL, Tinkler will be under huge pressure when Pirates resume their league campaign against Mamelodi Sundowns on December 20.
That’s a long way off, time enough for Dr Irvin Khoza to consider his coach’s position. And with Pitso Mosimane’s Masandawana on a strong run, hardly the game Tinkler and his Buccaneers would have chosen to begin their domestic resurrection.
The truth is Jordaan’s optimism is misplaced. South African football is struggling. The crunch, fortunately, is a few months away. In late March 2016, Shakes Mashaba’s Bafana have to play Cameroon home and away.
The opening 0-0 home draw against tiny Gambia and a shocking 3-1 defeat in Mauritania see South Africa bottom of group M in qualifying for Gabon next year. They already trail Cameroon by five points and only the top side goes through, along with the best runner-up from 13 groups.
Anything less than two wins over the Indomitable Lions will leave Mashaba in serious jeopardy. That might be the time for Jordaan and his clandestine technical committee to ring the changes before the CAF World Cup group draw in June.
Games don’t start until October, so the new coach - hopefully with new assistants - will have nearly seven months to settle in. Or we can stick with what we’ve got. Let’s see how we deal with those lions. Now... relax for four months.