Following a challenging week for Bafana Bafana, we put questions to Head Coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba on how he sees the future panning out in the wake of the defeat to Mauritania, a win over Senegal in the Nelson Mandela Challenge and the tough programme ahead.

Following a challenging week for Bafana Bafana, we put questions to Head Coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba on how he sees the future panning out in the wake of the defeat to Mauritania, a win over Senegal in the Nelson Mandela Challenge and the tough programme ahead. In this frank and open interview, Mashaba talks candidly about the challenges but says he sees a great future for the South African Men’s Senior National Team.

It has been a rollercoaster week, take us through it
A: I was the first to put my hand up to say we didn’t play well in Mauritania but in the same breath, I also think some of the criticism went beyond fairness and was a bit personal. But, it also showed me how people of South Africa are passionate about their sport and in particular Bafana Bafana.

It is out of national pride that people have expressed their views. I understand that the game of football is all about winning, losing and drawing. I have been through a lot during my playing and coaching career. I have lived this game for my entire life, so yes, while some criticism hurt, I always pride myself in the fact that I put all for my country, the team and all those who love this team.

There has been massive criticism regarding preparations for Mauritania. How much did playing on synthetic pitch affect the final outcome?
A: We have travelled and played across Africa on numerous occasions, played on synthetic and grass pitches with great success. In fact, the harsh reality on the continent is that it is 50/50 regarding grass and artificial pitches, so talk that we didn’t do our homework is far-fetched. We were just outgunned on the day and we are not happy with our overall performance on the day. Everything just didn’t go well for the team and it hurts.

Then what really went wrong in Mauritania?
A: We conceded a bizarre goal very early in the game, a goal which would not beat Itumeleng Khune in a million attempts. But that is football for you. Check around the globe and you will see that errors are part of this game. After a pep talk in the second half, I was confident to turn things around but minutes into the second half, we got a red card and that really threw us into a spin. Much as we tried, playing with 10 men, away from home against a rejuvenated home team, we were always going to chase the game. To add salt to injury, we had three defenders all suffering niggling injuries in the second half – Eric Mathoho (shoulder), Rivaldo Coetzee (ankle) and Anele Ngcongca (mild concussion) – and because we had already used all three substitutions, we couldn’t take them off. The heat didn’t help matters as well, but, most importantly, we offer no excuses and we understand that we should have done much better. This will be addressed decisively in the remaining matches.

What about team captain Itumeleng Khune?
A: He is a true leader! That young man proved it against Senegal when he pulled off a string of brilliant saves. I was the first to tell him to forget about the Mauritania game and I knew he would come back stronger. Those are the attributes of a leader and star player. I am happy and proud for him. Khune will always be a special player on my team sheet.

The boys turned things around against Senegal. How did this happen?
A: I have said some of the criticism against Mauritania was understandable. We showed against Senegal that when our backs are against the wall we can dish as much as we can get. We have beaten some of the best teams and qualified for the 2015 AFCON unbeaten. Those were not friendly matches. I am confident of this project, that given a good environment, it can blossom into massive national pride. Watch this space!!

There has been stability in the goalkeeping department and captaincy. Is that set to continue?
A: The whole intention is to have a core of players within a set-up but then at times changes are forced on you. The rotation of the captaincy was for us to develop a core group of leaders in the team so that we can provide the necessary on-field leadership even when we are forced to change our squad for the different competitions we usually enter.

How do you and your technical team analyse the opposition?
A: We do lots of homework on the opposition and make use of the modern technology as dictated by modern trends.

About your selection criteria …
A: There is a lot of work put into the entire system such as checking the well-being of the player, his suitability within the set-up, dedication to the team, DISCIPLINE and match fitness. All these are criteria discussed by the entire technical team and people must be mindful that before we name any team, it is subjected to a thorough ‘fitness test’.

The media criticism….
A: I have come to accept that it goes with the territory although at times I feel that some of the attacks are personal. Perhaps I can just appeal that the criticism be a bit measured, constructive and relevant to the match/es. I promise, I will not undermine their (media/public) faith and belief in our National Team.

How do you feel when the team loses?
A: Like any other proudly South African, I get very emotional because I am passionate about this team and this sport which is the only thing I have known my entire life. I am only human and at times I may come across as being too emotional. But, we learn every day, but I don’t think I will ever lose my passion for this team and our country. I hope you will understand.

Explain Vision 2022….
A: Most people don’t understand this concept. It is about building a world class SAFA as a global brand in which we develop our junior teams in preparation for battles to come and I am only touching from a playing point of view (It is a massive concept which entails administration, financial stability, etc).

Already our U17 National Team is going to the World Cup in Chile, our U20 National Team won the Commonwealth Cup in Russia, but unfortunately could not replicate the same form at the African Championships in Senegal. Our U23 National Team is headed to Senegal for the 8-Nations tournament in which the top three African countries qualify for the Olympics and we are confident we will make it to the Rio 2016 Olympics. Junior tournaments are all running at full throttle and come 2022, we are confident we will have built competitive national teams ready to compete on the continent and globally. We are very much on track as far as that project is concerned.

Coming matches…
A: We are headed into a busy fixture programme which starts next month with two away friendly matches in Costa Rica and Honduras before playing Angola home and way in CHAN and World Cup2018 qualifiers. I am confident of where we are headed and think that we are entering a defining period in our campaign on all three fronts.

Supporters have stood by you through thick and thin
A: The supporters have been the bedrock of my life in football and without them I could have cracked. Wherever I go, they encourage me to keep my head high. I stop at shopping malls to chat to them and exchange notes. When we have played below par they say so and we have to accept. In the same vein, when we do well they also congratulate us which shows there is a balance. On behalf of the technical team and players, I would like to say to all Bafana Bafana supporters around the country, ‘take a bow,’ thanks for the support and we love you.

NB: Bafana Bafana’s next matches will be two international friendlies against Costa Rica and Honduras followed by four back to back qualifiers against Angola for CHAN and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Costa Rica vs BAFANA BAFANA

International Friendly

20h00 local time (04h00 9/10 SA Time)

Baltodano Bricenio Stadium, Liberia

Costa Rica

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Honduras vs BAFANA BAFANA

International Friendly

16h00 local time (00h00 SA Time)

Metropolitano Stadium, San Pedro Sula

Honduras

Saturday, 17 October 2015

BAFANA BAFANAvs Angola

First Round 4th Edition of CHAN, Rwanda 2016

15h00 *

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Angola vs BAFANA BAFANA

First Round 4th Edition of CHAN, Rwanda 2016

15h00 local time (16h00 SA Time)

11th October Stadium

Luanda *

Friday, 13 November 2015

Angola vs BAFANA BAFANA

Round2 – 1st Leg, FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier

15h15 / 17h00 local time (16h15 / 18h00 SA Time)

Ombaka National Stadium, Benguela

Angola *

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

BAFANA BAFANAvs Angola

Round2 – 2nd Leg, FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifiers

19h00

Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban *

(*) Dates and times subject to FIFA / CAF 

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