MAHLATSE MPHAHLELE IN IVORY COAST | Analyst Mali an unsung hero for Bafana

07 February 2024 - 15:26 By Mahlatse Mphahlele in Abidjan
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Bafana Bafana video analyst Sinesipho Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.
Bafana Bafana video analyst Sinesipho Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.
Image: Sinesipho Mali/X

For the past three-and-a-half weeks at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) here in Ivory Coast, Bafana Bafana performance and video analyst Sinesipho Mali has pretty much been hiding in plain sight.

Tournament upstarts Bafana meet Nigeria in Wednesday’s semifinal at Stade de la Paix in Bouaké, Ivory Coast, on Wednesday (7pm, SA time) for the prize of meeting Ivory Coast or Democratic Republic of the Congo (whose semifinal is at 10pm) in Sunday's final in Abidjan.

Plaudits have gone to players and coach Hugo Broos after Bafana’s dream run to the their first semifinal in 24 years but Mali has flown under the radar despite his immeasurable contribution to the team’s success.

South Africa have surpassed all expectations reaching this stage, their first Nations Cup semifinal in 24 years. If they make it to the final, it will be their first since 1998 where they lost to Egypt in Burkina Faso.

Against the Super Eagles, the focus will fall sharply on Broos and his players but before they walk on the pitch, Mali would done his job behind the scenes by giving the troops all the information they need to tackle their fancied opponents.

Bafana captain Ronwen Williams, after his stunning performance saving an unheard of four penalties in the shoot-out quarterfinal win against Cape Verde, singled out Mali’s work in preparing the goalkeeper for the spot-kicks. 

Former SuperSport United, Sekhukhune United and Richards Bay coach Kaitano Tembo said the role played by analysts in the scientific age of football is crucial.

“Analysts in modern football are important if you want to take your team to another level,” said Tembo about Mali, who is a Uefa elite scout graduate and has also worked with age group national teams and Banyana Banyana at the World Cup last year.

“These days all the matches are televised and teams and players know each other well but analysts give you an opportunity to get detailed information about your opponent and yourself.

“Analysts are able to see things that a coach may not be able to see with the naked eye, because they spend a lot of time watching games to give detailed information about their own team and the opponent to coaches and players.

“With that information, a coach will decide which information and tactics to use in preparation for the upcoming match, which is important. Even during the game, the analysts sit in the stands but they are watching a match on a phone or laptop to give information to the coach and players at halftime.

“Because of these things, you cannot hide as a player, because all the analysis as an individual and as a team is there to be scrutinised, and sometimes in real time because players wear monitors.”

Tembo has also been impressed by work done by other Bafana backroom staff and fitness and conditioning trainers like Kopano Melesi, as the players have been in top shape in Ivory Coast.

“People are saying pitches have been very good [at Afcon] and that has led to the good football, but for me the difference is that these matches have been more tactical.

“Players are able to use their technical ability under pressure and playing at high intensity. If you look at the trend since Afcon started, there has not been too much complication.

“The performances are all raw and there is also a lot of athleticism that is coming in there, that’s why the intensity of the matches has been high. Whether it is extra time, the tempo doesn’t really change.

“Credit must go not just to the analysts but also to conditioning coaches because they have done a lot of good work throughout the tournament. Players are in good condition and they play at unbelievable intensity and tempo.

“It is hot and humid in Ivory Coast but you can’t really see that, the tempo remains because of the conditioning of the players. Those are the things that we can look back at and say there is not much about complicated tactics but it is raw football.

“This Afcon has taken us probably 30 or 40 years back where the type of football that was played was raw and less complicated. It has been eye-opening and in terms of analysts they play a huge role.”

If Bafana beat Nigeria on Tuesday, you are unlikely to see much of Mali and Melesi because they will be hiding in plain sight.


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