Safa expected to announce Bafana coach Ntseki's firing after confrontational meeting ends badly

31 March 2021 - 10:05
By Marc Strydom and Mahlatse Mphahlele
Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki  and his technical team will have tough questions to answer from Safa president Danny Jordaan and his national executive committee after failure to qualify for Afcon.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/ Gallo Images Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki and his technical team will have tough questions to answer from Safa president Danny Jordaan and his national executive committee after failure to qualify for Afcon.

The SA Football Association (Safa) is expected to announce the firing of Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki at a press conference at Safa House on Wednesday‚ in the wake of the national team’s failure to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

This follows an apparently confrontational meeting between Safa’s leadership and the coach at the association’s headquarters in Nasrec late on Tuesday.

Safa had already called a media briefing for noon on Wednesday.

Safa’s leadership were expected to discuss Bafana’s failure to qualify for the 2021 Afcon — after Sunday’s 2-0 defeat away to Sudan‚ where a draw would have clinched qualification.

TimesLIVE is informed that while Safa did not communicate an intention to fire Ntseki‚ the coach left Tuesday’s meeting resigned to the possibility that this would be his fate.

Ntseki was believed to have argued mitigating factors that the coach believes led to SA finishing third in Group C on 10 points‚ behind Ghana on 13 and Sudan on 10.

The mitigating factors include the tough scheduling that was handed to Bafana in some of the rounds of Group C‚ which Ntseki had complained about last week ahead of the match in Sudan.

This includes the opening round‚ where Sudan played Sao Tome and Principe at home (winning 4-0) on a Wednesday (November 13 2019)‚ and flew to SA to meet Bafana (losing 1-0) on that Sunday (November 17).

SA had a day less to prepare as they lost to Ghana in Cape Coast on the Thursday (November 14)‚ and had to travel by bus overnight night to fly from Accra on the Friday morning‚ arrive in Johannesburg in the evening‚ train on Saturday‚ and play on the Sunday.

In the final round‚ unusually‚ because the last two rounds of group matches almost always are played at the same time‚ Sudan beat Sao Tome 2-0 away last Wednesday‚ and Bafana drew 0-0 at home against Ghana on Thursday.

This again left the South Africans a day less to travel and prepare.

Another mitigating factor Safa might have considered was the wave of withdrawals by European clubs that hit squads across the continent for the final two rounds of 2021 Afcon qualifiers‚ after a Fifa circular regarding Covid-19 saying teams did not have to release players.

However the confrontational nature of Tuesday night’s meeting looks set to sway the organisation to let the coach go‚ and seek a more experienced replacement‚ especially with qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar looming.

Despite mitigating factors‚ Bafana’s failure to reach the Cameroon 2021 Afcon finals — postponed to next January and February next year by Covid-19 — raised questions and fuelled public doubts on whether Ntseki has the credentials to qualify for the World Cup.

Failure to reach the global showpiece in Qatar would be a huge embarrassment to Safa‚ as that has been the stated objective of their Vision 2022 programme started in 2012.

The challenges presented by scheduling in the 2021 Afcon qualifiers should surely also have been balanced out by the fact that‚ due to Covid-19‚ SA played both of their games against Sao Tome at home.

Since 2019‚ 24 teams‚ expanded from 16‚ qualify for the Nations Cup‚ whereas just five from the continent will reach the 2022 World Cup.

In the World Cup SA are drawn with Ghana‚ Zimbabwe and Ethiopia in Group C. All three of Bafana’s opponents qualified for the Nations Cup‚ where SA lost away then and drew against a significantly understrength Black Stars at home.

Ethiopia‚ who were responsible for eliminating SA in the penultimate hurdle in the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup‚ reached the 2021 Nations Cup as runners-up to Ivory Coast in Group K‚ above 2019 quarterfinalists Madagascar and Niger. Zimbabwe qualified in second place to Algeria in Group H‚ above Zambia and Botswana.

With the World Cup qualifiers beginning in late May or early June‚ if Ntseki is indeed released from his contract on Wednesday Safa will need to find a replacement with a haste not always associated with the national ruling body.