Sunday, 1 January 2017

South Africa's quest for leadership: all eyes on Milton "Micho" Sredojevic after AFCON 2017

CRANES DRIVER: Milutin "Micho" Sredojevic
SOUTH AFRICANS are suffering a football-free void until February 7 but while we wait for the domestic game to restart... keep an eye on Uganda.

Milutin Sredojević, also known as MICHO, is the 47-year-old Serbian who could be on the verge of joining Bafana Bafana after AFCON 2017.

He’s the bloke who got Uganda’s Cranes to the AFCON in Gabon which starts on January 14. While our blessed Bafana under Ephraim Mashaba couldn’t even get close, Micho somehow got Uganda to the final stages for the first time since they finished second in 1978.

With South Africa’s PSL on extended vacation until next month, all eyes will be on the 2017 African Nations Cup, with our neighbours Zimbabwe also making the cut and Cote D’Ivoire attempting to defend the title they won in Equatorial Guinea two years ago.

With Uganda’s FA struggling for cash - they don’t even have a kit sponsor - there has been talk of their precious Serbian coach failing to get the cash he was promised for getting the nation to Gabon.

With Ghana (17 Jan), Egypt (21 Jan) and Mali (Jan 25) in their uncompromising group at Afcon, few expect Micho’s men to progress to the latter stages. In qualifying, their Group D saw Uganda finish with four wins, a draw and a defeat to emerge behind Burkina Faso but ahead of Botswana and the Comoros as one of two best runners-up.

With a friendly against Tunisia away lined up for January 4, Micho is currently trying to select his best 23 for Gabon, before a warm-up tournament against Ivory Coast and Slovakia in the UAE.

But it’s what happens AFTER their first AFCON in 38 years we South Africans should be concerned about.

Weeks ago, when Bafana Bafana drew their final AFCON 2017 qualifier with Mauritania to finish third in their group, I was told SAFA president Danny Jordaan, having lost the NMB mayoral race against the DA’s Athol Trollop, had finally realised the state of South Africa’s national team during his absence.

Two weeks later, talks with Micho had - allegedly - taken place. I was told Bafana Bafana incumbent Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba had too much political support to be summarily fired for an awful AFCON performance which featured players not good enough to play for their club sides..

Instead, Shaky was told he HAD to get four points from his first two World Cup 2018 qualifiers against Burkina Faso and Africa’s best side Senegal.

Incredibly, after an away draw which they deserved to win, South Africa beat Senegal at home - on the back of a dodgy penalty from Ghanaian referee Jonthan Lamptey, who was subsequently banned for three months - and Shaky appeared to be safe.

But no, Jordaan - who told BBC Africa a few weeks before that Mashaba “had to go, the outcry is too great” - then reacted to Mashaba’s understandable glee by firing our national head coach.

True, Mashaba wagged his finger at Jordaan and accused him of being “unsupportive” in front of several witnesses, but to fire Shaky after beating Senegal was distinctly dodgy. Suspension was followed by a kangaroo court and termination.

Why? Because Micho had been lined up by Jordaan, just as Carlos Queiroz had been told he had the job after Gordon Igesund but was rejected due to his required salary.

Just 24 hours before the guillotine fell on Mashaba’s neck, I’m told Dr Irvin Khoza - the PSL chairman who REALLY runs South African football - decided Micho would be a good replacement for caretaker coach Augusto Palacios at his own club, Orlando Pirates.

Which leaves us in an interesting position before Bafana resume their World Cup qualification process against Cape Verde Islands in August. 

I’m told Khoza, who put Micho in charge at Orlando with mixed fortunes in 2006, was the man who initially made contact with the Uganda coach two months ago. The compromise position: Mashaba (who has never proved himself at club level) could go to Pirates, who currently languish in an unacceptable TENTH in the PSL, allowing Micho to take the Bafana job.

The man himself insists he is focused on Uganda, he says: “Whatever you are hearing, I am loyal to Uganda. My contract expires in 2018 but  the bags of any coach are always half packed.

“I believe you have a top class team in South Africa. I admire good football and I believe you have a very, very good team. In life you never know.”

Whatever happens, Micho is contracted to Uganda until 2018. But if Uganda get hammered at AFCON, which is a distinct possibility, he’ll be sacked and available.

And Bafana, with a useful 4 points from their two World Cup qualifiers, may be too good to turn down.

When MICHO was last at Orlando Pirates, he complained about discipline problems HERE: http://www.iol.co.za/capeargus/sport/all-is-not-well-at-pirates-says-sredojevic-561513

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