Johannesburg – Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki was last week shown the door after just nine games in charge of the South Africa senior men’s soccer team as the side failed to qualify for Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon next year.
Ntseki’s fate is not unique: coaches normally get the axe when teams stumble.
The oddity, though, is that the SA Football Association – while firing the coach – was also hailing his achievements with the national team.
SAFA boss Tebogo Motlanthe said this week: “Our failure to qualify for AFCON is a setback in terms of Vision 2022. But we should not isolate it because there were some successes. Give it to coach Ntseki. He collected 10 points, which shows there was work done. We’re not going to restart the process but we need continuation.
“We need a coach who will take us forward, to the World Cup. There’s no space for failure. We need a quality coach. We want Bafana to be in line with Vision 2022. We need a coach who will take us there.”
Former Bafana Bafana coach Clive Barker said Ntseki was too lightweight for the top job.
“It is crazy. You can’t go there and be in charge of a national team and you have never won anything. I can’t recall if he has won something and if he has won‚ then I do apologise,” said Barker.
But other analysts feel Ntseki is nothing more than a scapegoat.
“The fact that South Africa last qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 2002, if I am not mistaken, is a clear indication that there is more into this than just hiring, firing and recycling coaches. We need change from top to bottom.
“SAFA needs to be investigated and re-recycled again. Administration and technical teams are all to blame. Everyone at SAFA has to follow. Molefi Ntseki is gone, who is next? While the same people at the top are unshaken and unbothered,” said soccer analyst Onward Mofe.
“What’s the point of firing the coach if the next coach is still gonna use Thulani Hlatswayo as our national team captain? Somehow I strongly feel like Molefi Ntseki was not the problem,” he added.
Another analyst, Nancy Chigudhu, was of the view that SAFA had not appointed Ntseki based on merit in the first place and this pointed to where the real problem lay.
“Do you recall during apartheid when government asked Nelson Mandela to plead and he said ‘The government is the one that should be in the dock’? It is the same here. It is the SAFA leadership that should step aside, not Molefi Ntseki! Bafana Bafana’s woes are deeper than coaches. We need to get to the root cause of this as a nation.
“Yes, Molefi Ntseki is fired, let’s wait and see if Bafana Bafana will win the next AFCON and win the World Cup. I don’t see that happening in the near future. We are going to have another coach recycled and getting the same results so this is not a coach’s problem.
“Also remember that for the Sudan match some of the key players were not present due to the pandemic. I sympathise with Ntseki for being thrown into the deep end and becoming another victim of unscrupulously administered football,” she charged.
Former South Africa Under-17 national coach Ntseki lacked experience at senior level, as he was appointed to replace Stuart Baxter in August 2019 after the latter steered Bafana Bafana to the quarterfinals of the AFCON 2019 in Egypt.
Ntseki’s reign was a troubled one.
His first matches were called off when Zambia and Madagascar pulled out of friendlies in September 2019 in response to attacks on foreigners in South Africa.
Then in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic obliterated the international sports calendar.
Bafana Bafana only played four matches last year, and then the AFCON qualifiers rolled by.