Bafana Bafana are the real losers in the rift between Shakes Mashaba and Kamohelo Mokotjo, writes MAZOLA MOLEFE in SoccerClub magazine.
As far as discords go, the fallout between midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo and Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba is not on the same scale as the tiff between the former Manchester City duo of Carlos Tevez and Roberto Mancini.
There was, however, enough disharmony to force Holland-based Mokotjo to reveal he has put his international career on ice, winning the public’s sympathy vote at the same time.
After all, he had only managed a total of 109 minutes since Mashaba, who once called Mokotjo ‘heavy and sluggish’, took charge of his first Bafana game in September 2014. Matthew Booth – a man who knows all too well the pain of flying across continents only to sit on the bench for Bafana – says coach and player should have never played to the gallery.
‘I suffered the same fate under Shakes while I was playing for Wimbledon in 2001 and I got called up for a game against Madagascar, but sat on the bench. I didn’t go to the press; which is where I am critical of Mokotjo because the coach is a personable guy and they should have had a meeting,’ says the former defender.
‘People are confused about a lot of Shakes’ choices and the Mokotjo omission is one of the puzzling ones. He is a star player in the Dutch league, so for him to travel all the way to be part of the national team and fail to make an appearance for two games in quick succession was very surprising.’
To recap, the last straw for Mokotjo came in March when Mashaba included him in a squad that went to Limbe to face group leaders Cameroon in the 2017 Afcon qualifiers. Mokotjo watched the game from the stands and was an unused substitute for the return leg in at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban.
Shortly after returning to his club, FC Twente, Mokotjo said that, in a nutshell, the Bafana coach had it in for him and was a ‘loudmouth’ in the media. ‘That was unnecessary, although I understand his frustration,’ says Booth. ‘It is not too late, but clearly there is not enough talking at Safa. In Mashaba’s defence, the one position where the country is in over supply is defensive midfield. Having said that, we cannot lose a talent like Mokotjo. Efforts have to be made to reconcile.’
Another man who’s offering to play devil’s advocate in this Mokotjo vs Mashaba saga is football analyst Farouk Khan. ‘The coach obviously has a challenge playing him, when there is so much competition because he looks at Hlompho Kekana and Andile Jali. But with Kamohelo playing regularly at his club, it does make sense that he should be given an opportunity to either succeed and impress the coach or fail, and then the coach has enough ammunition to say he’s given him the chance and he doesn’t have what it takes right now. That is all players need – the assurance from the coach that they are either good enough or not,’ says Khan.
It may yet be sometime before the situation is resolved, with neither player or coach ‘winning’ this untimely battle.
– This article first appeared in issue 69 of SoccerClub magazine.