Joel Santana has left and few tears will be shed. Depending on where you read it or watch it Santana was either sacked or resigned. Bafana fans will care little of which it was, just that he has final left, but the likely story is that if he wasn’t sacked then he resigned just before he was about to be fired. Bafana Bafana fans have had to put up with his ineptitude for 18 months and no finally, hopefully not too late, they have some relief.
Santana’s fans, there are very few of them, if any, point to the teams performance in the ConFed Cup, as evidence that the Brazilian was doing better then it seemed. That perhaps clouds the real slide that Bafana have endured under their now former coach. With so much attention now focused on the rapidly approaching World Cup many South Africans seem to have forgotten that Santana failed to get Bafana to qualify for the African Cup of Nations, the first time South Africa won’t be competing in the competition they won in 1996. With South Africa not needing to qualify for the World Cup, being hosts, they are desperately short of competitive matches and the AFCON would have been ideal as a pre World Cup warm up and competitive gauge. Instead Bafana search for friendly games with whoever is available.
Not only have Bafana lost 8 of their last 9 games, but they haven’t looked like winning any either. Santana said that he didn’t need to win friendly games. He missed the point. Friendly matches were all Bafana had to gauge where they were and how far they needed to go. They should have all be treated as much win competitive games. Maybe he felt that he didn’t need to win them but Bafana and the country needed to. Confidence by the fans has slipped and with defeat after defeat the players must be short of confidence too, no matter what they may say. Yes they were friendly games, but make no mistake; they needed to be treated as much more.
While I take little stock in the FIFA World Rankings, after last weeks embarrassing submission of them, for those who do look to them Bafana have slipped to 85th, their lowest ever ranking, and perhaps the obvious picture of where South Africa find themselves thanks to Santana’s tenure.
SAFA acted too slowly in not rectifying their failure in appointing Santana. The coach’s reluctance to learn English, meaning he could not communicate with his players, staff, his bosses or the media, should have been their first clue that things were not going to end well. The media suggests that the new man will be named on Friday, meaning SAFA are either acting quickly or have done so already. Either way, the new man will breathe fresh air into the flagging sails of the team and remove complacent wood from the sinking ship. Three men are said to be on SAFA’s list, Carlos Alberto Parreira, the man who was replaced by Santana, the front runner, and local coaches Gavin Hunt and Gordan Ingusend the others.
Should Carlos Alberto be reinstated, which seems the most likely, he will have the advantage of having been in the job before, with the World Cup rapidly approaching, and this will be an advantage. As for Hunt and Ingusend, while neither has international experience, both have enjoyed domestic success and as such have a proven understanding of South African football and players. If Carlos Alberto is not given the job then local is definitely better.
Bafana needs to get past the Santana era and get the country behind them for the World Cup. There’s less than 250 days until the World Cup – the time is now. There are no excuses left – Bafana must deliver now. The post Santana period should be interesting.