When we were little boys, one of the easiest ways to deal with the long walk from school, was to engage in a debate on who could win the fight between Chuck Norris and BA Barracus; Bruce Lee and John Rambo or Superman and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Whoever was featured in the match up, the debate would be tumultuous, emotionally charged and highly energised; composite variables juxtaposed and analysed in a veiled effort to ignore the pounding heat of the scotching sun.
In many respects, the debate around Bafana Bafana’s AFCON 2015 postmortem is a lot like that. What is disappointing is that in spite of the wave of change in our football the narrative does not change. It is still charged with a negative sentiment. That is to be expected, because as South Africans we are never happy. If you don’t believe me, try and recall the last time someone commented on what a beautiful day we are having.
Ja! Exactly, because we complain about everything!
Of late this expected phenomenon is further detonated to a whole new level by this claim that Ephraim Mashaba refuses to select internationally based players. That’s confusing to me, because the core of Mashaba’s team is made up of players who are based overseas.
Think about it Jali, Furman, Ngcongca, Keet, Rantie are all based overseas. So it may very well be that it is not that Ephraim Mashaba refuses to select internationally based players. But because he made the mistake of going to the AFCON without specific players some people would have liked to see. The only reason anyone would husband such a view is if they believe that players who ply their trade in the bigger leagues have the magical ability of improving our chances of becoming continental champions. That confuses me more, because a brief look at the data proves that having players who ply their trade in the bigger more popular leagues in Europe is a handicap.
Take this weekend’s finalists for a good start.
The last time Ivory Coast won the AFCON, there was no such thing as Kwaito. The last time Ghana won the AFCON, Michael Jackson had just finished the album “Thriller”, while Brenda Fassie and the big dudes’ “Weekend Special” was still an idea. These are countries that have had players in the top five leagues in Europe forever. Cameroon had to wait 18 years before they could win it in 2000 before repeating the same feet with the same generation of players 24 months later. Nigeria had to wait 19 years before their win in 2013, while Senegal with players all over Europe and the English Premiership have never won it.
You see anyone who understands the fundamental concepts of organisational behavior will agree with me when I say the following:
It does not matter how brilliant the strategy you have in place, how skilled and talented the people you have available, how structured or resourced your organisation might be. The golden thread that pulls everything together is shared values.
So when Ephraim Mashaba’s demands that players conduct themselves in a way that portrays patriotism. I don’t think that is too much to ask. Because shared values are the bedrock of performance excellence when it comes to successful execution of any mission, and it takes years to engender those values in a team.
It is not by coincidence that the national teams that perform well on any international stage are normally those that have been kept together for a long time. The idea that national teams should be graduated from junior to senior national teams has far less to do with development as it does with establishing a set of values which the team will live by. An unbreakable brotherhood that is impenetrable on and off the field.
So as the acrimony bellows on radio talk shows and the social media goes crazy simply because Mashaba dared to question people’s commitment. Ask yourself these two questions.
Why is it OK to automatically disqualify rugby players who take up contract in Europe, because it is not a patriotic thing to do? But if a Bafana Bafana coach so much as questions people’s conduct, then it is a crime.
Is that not a double standard?
Secondly, if it takes years to establish a shared value system in a team, how is Ephraim Mashaba supposed to achieve that with players who only rock up in a training camp when they feel like it?