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Ntseki's tenure as Bafana coach off to bumpy start as xenophobic attacks scupper matches

05 September 2019 - 21:38 By Tiisetso Malepa
Molefi Ntseki. File photo.
Molefi Ntseki. File photo.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Molefi Ntseki's tenure as Bafana Bafana coach got off to a rocky and perhaps embarrassing start this week after his first assignment was scuppered.

Bafana were initially scheduled to play in this Saturday's international friendly match against Zambia in Lusaka but the Football Association of Zambia (Faz) called off the game on Tuesday as a result of ongoing but sporadic xenophobic violence in South Africa.

The Zambians pulled out just as Bafana were finalising their travel arrangements to fly out to Lusaka.

The SA Football Association (Safa) moved with speed and a day later secured Madagascar as next opponents for Bafana.

However, the Indian Ocean islanders decided to withdraw just under 48 hours before the match. The Malagasy team were about to board their plane to Johannesburg when they received an order to abort their mission.

At about 4.20pm on the Orlando Stadium pitch in Soweto on Thursday afternoon, Bafana had just wrapped up their training session when Safa dropped the bombshell on their Twitter account.

As they were packing their training kits preparing to go back to their hotel, the news of Madagascar pulling out was relayed to the team and players were visibly distraught over the development.

Coach Ntseki in particular looked unhappy.

In an unprecedented move, Safa hastily called a media briefing for 7pm which was graced by the entire Bafana squad in the press conference room.

Sitting alongside Safa president Danny Jordaan, acting chief executive Russell Paul and captain Thulani Hlatshwayo, the newly appointed Bafana coach said his wishes were to keep the players in camp.

But Ntseki said his decision would be announced on Friday morning whether the players would be released from camp or a friendly match with one of the local teams could be secured.

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“After this briefing, there will be a team meeting where a decision (whether to release players or not) will be made,” said Ntseki.

“We are still to consult with the clubs and the Safa leadership and a decision will be made (on Friday).

Jordan was at pains to point out that the cancellation of the matches was not football related but purely due to xenophobic violence in the country.

“We want to reiterate that as Safa we totally condemn these acts of violence in respect of the xenophobic attacks on fellow Africans as well as the criminal looting of businesses,” said Jordaan.

“We will never tolerate those. So we urge the authorities to deal in the harshest manner with matters of xenophobic attacks.”

The cancellation of the match puts Ntseki and Bafana in a shaky position ahead of crucial back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup of Nations games against Ghana in Accra and at home against Sudan in November.

This international friendly window would have provided Bafana with much-needed game time ahead of the November qualifiers.

On Zambia pulling out, Jordaan said: “I have had discussions with Zambia FA president Mr Andrew Kamanga to talk about the matter around the match. We then agreed that the climate both in SA and Zambia is not conducive to provide a continuation of a long relationship with Zambia the country and as a football association.”

On the cancellation by Madagascar, the Safa boss said: “I spoke to the Madagascar FA president and he agreed that they will put a team together and they will come to play against us. But of course today (Thurday) we got a letter from them while they were at the airport ready to board the plane to Johannesburg that they were asked to get off that plane and stay in Madagascar and subsequent to that, they sent a letter that they will no longer be coming.”