Friday, June 5, 2009

In defence of Joel Santana

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.


  1. My first article since starting this blog. I felt it was a bit lengthy but after editing it a couple of times I managed to reduce it quite a bit. Not yet ready to write for but I'm taking it one step at a time.

  2. Dude. Newsflash.

    Writing journo-style, discussing things you're passionate about, is NOT a learning-curve exercise. Sure, you can hone punctuation and spelling and idiom, but that's not what readers will follow you for. People will follow this kind of writing, because of who YOU are. Your passion and you insight. Hell, most of the time, I don't even AGREE with you, but I'm here, reading, right? Why d'you think that is, huh? :))

    May I suggest you read/listen/watch some of Adii/Obox/Jason's recent 'uitlaatings'. They've all simultaneously latched onto the idea, of: "Think you're not ready? Tough shit. Do it now!" And, they're right.

    So, buddy :)), reach down, take your balls in your hand, and jump.

    You don't need to get any better...
    You need to get your stuff in front of people.

  3. Wow Andre. Didn't expect to hear that from you but I think your absolutely right.

    I am still planning what to do with the main blog but I will definitely return at some stage. But the blog will be totally different. For now I'm enjoying the peace and quiet of running a blogspot blog :)

    Just subscribed to Adii and obox's blog, but which Jason are you referring to?

  4. Jason Adriaan ( and @jasonadriaan)

    I fully get the want-to-take-a-break thing, but don't let that stop you from throwing your stuff at the big name publishers right now. You're ready.

  5. Thanks dude. I really appreciate your advice man.

  6. Santana, like any coach in the world stands to be questioned when he continuously makes blunders in his team selections, you have to understand that the frustrations people are showing are because they've seen something like this happen before, where the best players were dropped for favoured players, not that I'm saying he favours some players.

    So, the whole discipline thing is all good but is this the time? why has he decided to become strict at this point? From what I hear, he asked Morris what he'd do if he was not to make the team and Morris answered: I'm not able to answer that question coach--- where's indiscipline there?

    Just because we love our country doesn't mean that we have to accept mediocrity.

    In defense of national pride :P


    btw - good post man, i loved it!

  7. I agree and share your frustrations Calvin but I think it's time we started looking at it from a different angle. Okay he left out some key players but you could argue that he decided to go with players that were familiar with the current set up.

    As for the discipline thing, I think this is the best time to put his foot down. I dont thnk anybody would care if they were dropped from the squad to play against Poland in a friendly. But show me a player who doesn't care aboout playing at the Confederations Cup or World Cup and I'll tell him he's a liar.

    Fianlly RE Morris, apparantly he arrived late at the camp after requesting to spend some time with his daughter. His attitde at the camp was also questioned as he had a "don't care" attitude. Probably out of frustration of losing out on his starting 11 status since Booth;s return. But at the end of the day nobody really know's what happened, it's all if's but's and maybe's at this point.

    Why would any coach drop one of his est central defenders for no apparent reason before a major tournament?

  8. @Ash, the same coach that picks Katlego Mphela

  9. Mphela was behind Khanyeza, Fanteni, and Parker in the pecking order. He was basically chosen as our fourth striker, so I doubt he would have seen any game time if Khanyeza wasn't dropped from the squad.

  10. DUDE! Darren Bent, Peter Crouch or Jermaine Defoe? - those are not prolific strikers

  11. in fact it looks like he's still fourth choice behind Fanteni, Parker and Mashego .

  12. yeah, anyhow, the idea is to stand behind out national team and hope all Santana's plans work out

  13. I didn't say that they are, just said that they are more prolific than Heskey.But then again even Sammi Hyypia is more prolific hehe.

    Bent(17),Crouch(16) and Defoe(13 - he was out injured for a couple of months as well) are the top scoring English strikers this season. While Heskey scored 5 goals this season.

    It's all about which system the manager employs. Englands system is more suited to Heskey, maybe Bafana's is more suited to Mphela.

  14. Dude! stop saying that about Mphela, I don't understand how any coach can plan around that guy, I think it's best we resort to the idea that he's just fought choice...