When the South African Football Association (SAFA) President, Kirsten Nemathandani, confirmed that it had decided to part ways with Joel Santana after ‘a very long heart to heart meeting’, the Bafana Bafana seemed rudderless. Nemathandani was at pains to stress that the decision to terminate the contract had been amicably decided upon in the interest of the bigger picture. And with that decision, assistant coaches Julio Leal and Pitso Mosimane, suddenly found themselves in charge as caretaker coaches of a team that’s eager to wear their World Cup soccer jerseys and make a mark on home ground next year.
It seems Santana was severe criticized after a series of poor results shown by the South African national team. Bafana Bafana managed to win just one out of the nine international matches they played post the Confederation Cup. Due to this, the SAFA put together a technical team to look into the reasons for the team’s poor performance and offered former coach of South Africa, Carlos Alberto Parreira, his earlier job back! A representative from the SAFA made him an official offer to succeed sacked fellow citizen, Santana, in Rio de Janeiro.
Parreira, who led Brazil to World Cup victory in 1994, joined as South Africa’s national team coach only to leave the job in April 2008 due to his wife’s illness. It looks like both sides are keen to seal the deal at the earliest, though initially Parreira wouldn’t disclose whether he had accepted the offer or not. He did mention though that his return was ‘on track’. Explained Parreira, «Some things still have to be approved, it’s a decision that has to be made by the government. There’s a proposal on the table that hasn’t been signed, but there is mutual interest. They have an urgent need because it’s about the national team of the country that will host the World Cup…»
If 66 year old Parreira takes this coaching job, it will be his sixth World Cup as coach! He made it clear that his aim would be to reach the second round at least, thereafter the whole thing is a lottery. «It will depend on the group which comes out of the draw. The hosts have greater expectations, their fans are emotional and rather irrational,» said
Though his role as Bafana Bafana’s coach seems more and more likely with each passing minute, the response to his return after an 18 month gap has been mixed. The national team captain, Aaron Mokoena, welcomed the move, whereas Clive ‘The Dog’ Barker felt a local coach would’ve been a better replacement. He explained, «I wasn’t surprised, but I would have liked to see a local coach given the chance and I think Gavin Hunt would be the best choice.» But Barker also emphasized the need for a united front once Parreira returns to his role as coach. With just eight months to go, Parreira has his job cut out for him, since the SAFA, Bafana Bafana and the South African fans are all keen to see their country take pride of place in the centre of the pitch in their World Cup soccer uniforms, South African flag in hand as they sing their national anthem…