South Africa’s most challenging job: coaching Bafana Bafana


It’s 20 coaches in 22 years and still counting!

In no doubt, that speaks volumes about the weight attached to the assignment of guiding South Africa’s national soccer team, Bafana Bafana, to glory.

President Jacob Zuma, for all the extreme pressure he faces as president of a country that is ‘barely’ two decades into its democracy, with its socio-economic challenges to contend with might not be having the most strenuous job in the country. Having been granted a mandate recently via a general election, he has ample time –five years to the good – to tackle issues that may have been ignored during his first tenure.

Though, for all criticism he has to bear, President Zuma might not be holding the most difficult job in the country. In comparison, a person charged with managing the affairs of the senior national soccer team is under intense pressure.

It is beyond belief how this turned out to be. But a more credible account could that winning the 1996 Cup of Nations, four years of re-admission into international soccer tournaments after years of isolation, had driven people’s expectations through the ceiling. Since then, there have been high hopes of the team’s success on the field, at all costs. And any one holding the fort of coaching has to put up with this reality.

It should not be astonishing that the exploit of Clive Barker, the coach who mentored Bafana Bafana to African Cup of Nations glory in 1996 and subsequent World Cup qualification in 1998, has yet to be replicated. His achievement masked shortcomings that have lied in the national football structures for only a while.

For all the cream of talented players that it was producing at the height of apartheid – the likes of Jomo Sono and Doctor Khumalo instantaneously spring to mind – youth development structures were piecemeal if any, at best, and non-existent, at worst. The main problem was that, while corporate sponsorships was generously poured into the grassroots growth of ‘white’ sporting codes like cricket and rugby, soccer, the main past time for majority township-confined black youth, was deprived. Moreover, haphazard organisation did not help matters.

Now, twenty years into the country’s democracy, with significant money in hand to adequately fund grass roots soccer development, there is still dearth of capable players to represent the national team in competitions involving various age groups. As a result, when the time for the country to participate comes, a group of youth are hastily assembled like a Sunday social soccer team, and miraculously expected to deliver.

Indisputably, a tough mission awaits the one who will be fortunate to be appointed as the Bafana Bafana coach. Isn’t it the country’s most challenging job, with 50 million impatient couch critics waiting to pounce on a mistake?

One thought on “South Africa’s most challenging job: coaching Bafana Bafana

  1. our football problems are bigger than any coach. You can bring the retired great Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourihno they will not do anything with the current group of players. Until we get our development structures correct from grass roots level nothing will change. Lets focus on developing our players from an early age. If we don’t properly invest in development we will sit here 10years later and talk about the same problems.

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