Sunday May 23, 2021. 10:00
Former South African national team coach Molefi Ntseki has explained that a unique mix of unfortunate circumstances contributed to Bafana Bafana’s failure to qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Ntseki was dismissed from his post after the team suffered a 2-0 away loss against Sudan in March, with the result ensuring that they will miss out on next year’s continental showpiece in Cameroon.
The South African Football Association (SAFA) have since moved to replace Ntseki with Belgian Hugo Broos, who will be tasked with trying to qualify Bafana for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – with the group phase of that preliminary competition kicking off in September.
Ntseki, meanwhile, has told Times Live that a mix of injuries, Covid-19 and cancellation of friendly games contributed to the failure in their AFCONQ campaign.
“I am addressing myself from a technical point of view — as for the politics and administration or the finances, I am not going to say much about that,” Ntseki stated.
“We are in a very unfortunate situation as SA and some things can’t be changed by Molefi Ntseki or by anybody who will be coming after me.
“In this country, we have a serious challenge because any of the players based in Europe that we want to bring into Bafana has to travel more than 14 to 15 hours to be in camp.
“When you talk of medical, physical and mental recovery, you don’t have a 100 percent fit player when they report for camp to come and perform.
“If you are playing back-to-back matches, it means the last player will arrive in SA the latest on Wednesday when you are to play on Thursday or Friday, and that on its own is a problem and there is nothing you can do about it.”
He added, “Unfortunately for me, we had serious medical challenges that the world is faced with in Covid-19 that affected individuals in the team in a negative way. When you called up players, you ended up changing 10-plus because some tested positive and others were injured.
“You could not have your first choice if I can put it that way. I remember going into the match against São Tomé and Príncipe, for the right-back position only we had to change individuals four times.
“We ended up getting the fifth player who was coming from a length injury — these are the challenges that Molefi as an individual cannot do anything about.
“Apart from Covid-19, we were so unfortunate that throughout my tenure as Bafana coach I never had 100 peecent of my top strikers in camp and in some stages I used to have zero percent of them in camp because they were injured.
“Lebo Mothiba had a very long injury, every time Bradley Grobler had to report for camp he was injured and that is why we ended up looking for players like Thabiso Kutumela and Ruzaigh Gamildien.
“I couldn’t get my top players up until the last match — against São Tomé and Príncipe I was playing Lebogang Manyama as a striker.
“When we were to play Ghana at home and Sudan away, all the strikers were not available. Kermit Erasmus, Grobler, Mothiba were all injured and we tracked Bongi Ntuli but he was also injured.
“The last part was that all our regular midfielders like Bongani Zungu, Dean Furman, Thulani Serero and Kamohelo Mokotjo were not available and these were the two players who played very well against São Tomé and Príncipe.
“We had to play our first match against Ghana away from home and the travelling, going to Ghana and coming back to Sudan in SA, was taxing because we did not even have time to prepare well for those two matches. Out of a possible six we managed to get three points, which was not that bad.
“We announced the team for São Tomé and Príncipe and Covid-19 came in, which was another disruption in terms of our preparations. You will understand if you are a national team coach that you only need players after every two months. We were without contact with the players for 12 months where we could not go into camp to prepare because of the lockdowns.
“When we reported for camp in October 2020, players were coming from the bubble and others were in off-season. I made it clear at that time that we left some of our key players to broaden the squad with new faces.”
Ntseki was reportedly set to be one of new coach Broos’ assistants but this was quickly rejected, with former Bafana Bafana winger Helman Mkhalele instead becoming the Belgian’s right-hand man.