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Molefi Ntseki explains why Bafana Bafana failed to reach the Nations Cup

22 May 2021 - 11:21 By mahlatse mphahlele
Former Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki says he had unique challenges furing his tenure. File photo
Former Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki says he had unique challenges furing his tenure. File photo
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Former Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki has detailed some of the reasons the senior national team failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Cameroon next year.

Ntseki, who was fired soon after Bafana lost 2-0 away to Sudan in a match they needed a draw to qualify for the tournament, said injuries to key players, Covid-19 and cancellations of friendly matches were the main contributors.

“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,” he said.

“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% 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.”

Ntseki said because of Covid-19, they had to chop and change players because of positive cases and travel restrictions.

“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% 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.”