UPDATE: Should South Africa have gone local?
Joel Santana arrived for what he thought was a routine review of his work with his South African Football Association bosses on Monday and within hours was packing his bags for a return to Brazil, ending his tenure as the 15th coach employed by South Africa in the last 17 years.
The run of poor results in recent internationals plus last year’s early elimination from the African Nations Cup qualifiers, had left Bafana Bafana in deep crisis, a team without any confidence or direction and running out of time before hosting the 2010 World Cup finals.
Santana had done himself few favours, first with his inability to learn passable English even after 18 months in the country and secondly his glib answers to increasingly concerned questions about the progress of the team. His side have looked listless and without direction in recent matches.
Santana was the second coach in the country’s Brazilian experiment, following Carlos Alberto Parreira as South Africa turned to the land of the five-time word champions for the expertise to mould their 2010 team.
Parreira has now returned to the job. He quit in April 2008 after his wife was found to have cancer. She has since recovered and he had indicated over the last days he would be interested in returning to the job.
There was, however, a clamour for a local coach to take over, with popular sentiment believing the experiment with foreign coaches has failed. In the past the deluge of callers to phone-in shows on radio and TV has influenced the decision of SAFA, which makes for a potentially dangerous decision-making.
The issue of Santana’s successor was discussed on Friday by the association’s leadership and Parreira will be in charge for the next internationals at home to Japan and Jamaica in mid-November. He will have six months to resurrect the country’s hopes of at least making it past the first round.
PHOTO: Carlos Alberto Parreira reacts during a match against Swaziland at Ellis Park in Johannesburg March 13, 2007. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko