Over the last couple of weeks every Tom, Dick and Sipho has been having a go at Bafana Bafana Coach Joel Santana, but with the Confederations Cup 9 days away I think it’s time we cut the coach some slack.
The public’s main bone of contention has been Santana’s controversial squad selection for the Fifa Confederations Cup. Okay so he didn’t do himself any favors when he left the Absa Premiership’s top goal scorer, Richard Henyekhane out of the squad in favor of Sundowns’ "goal machine" Katlego Mphela. The coach made another big call when he decided not to hand Bafana’s record goal scorer Benni McCarthy a call up after the striker refused to pitch up for the games against Norway and Portugal. McCarthy said he was injured, Blackburn's medical team said he was fit, and four days after Bafana's match against Portugal Benni once again showed the Nation that miracles do indeed exist as he made a miraculous recovery from his ‘injury’ to play for Blackburn against Tottenham Hotspur.
Mabhudi Khanyeza was the next player to feel the wrath of Santana’s strict disciplinarian approach. Khanyeza failed to pitch up at the camp on time after he was given permission to attend to a family matter, and he was subsequently dropped from the squad as a result of this. The third and final payer to be dropped from the squad due to ill-discipline was center-back Nasief Morris.
These were Santana’s four major sins according to local soccer fans(myself included) but can we really blame the coach for trying to instill some discipline and professionalism into the players ahead of a major tournament? Do you think Fabio Capello or Sir Alex Ferguson would put up with this kind of behavior from their players? Not in a month of Sundays!
We have repeatedly been reminded by SAFA and Santana that the 2010 World Cup is the bigger picture, and I believe that Santana decided to put his foot down with this bigger picture in mind. Can you imagine Benni failing to pitch up for a vital International friendly against Germany two months before the World Cup kicks off? Or Mabhudi ‘Houdini’ Khanyeza pulling another one of his disappearing act’s a day before we play against Italy in the Semi Finals? It would be a disaster!
At least now the players know that Santana means business and that unprofessional behavior won’t be tolerated, regardless of how important they may think they are to the team, and for this Santana deserves some credit. Great managers don’t ask their players to respect them, they demand it.
But what about Henyekhane I hear you asking. Yes he had a brilliant season with Golden Arrows and scored a bucket full of goals in the process ,but sometimes this is not enough. The coach might have a specific formation and style of play in mind to which Richard would not be suited.
Why do you think Fabio Capello made Emile Heskey England's first choice striker ahead of more prolific strikers such as Darren Bent, Peter Crouch or Jermaine Defoe? I doubt it's because of the 4 to 5 Premier League goals he scores a season, but instead for what he brings to the team, especially his partnership up front with Wayne Rooney.
His squad selections are difficult to understand at times, his tactics often confusing and his English is poor, but this is the man chosen to lead our country into the World Cup, so let’s cut him some slack and support TEAM Bafana as they prepare to do the Nation proud in the Confederations Cup.
Till next time.