Coach Broos Owes Us!

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Hugo Broos (coach) of Bafana Bafana during the South Africa mens national soccer team press conference at Dobsonville Stadium on September 19, 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 19: Hugo Broos (coach) of Bafana Bafana during the South Africa mens national soccer team press conference at Dobsonville Stadium on September 19, 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

When Bafana Bafana head coach, Hugo Broos, announced his squad to take on Sierra Leone and Botswana in back-to-back international friendlies, on SABC 1 last Thursday, it was very interesting to see his change of heart when he finally called up Mamelodi Sundowns influential attacker, Themba Zwane, but it was equally surprising that he continued to overlook his teammate Andile Jali! 

These are two of the players that clearly didn’t ignite any emotion on coach Broos, as he’s on the record about snubbing them, despite their obvious breath-taking performances and contribution at club level. Did we mention their continental football experience, which is much-needed for Bafana? These two instrumental players’ ‘crimes’ was their age, it would seem, as the coach was looking to focus more on younger players to build the national team. This is something he made clear even before taking to the first training session. It is now history that a couple of ‘over-age’ players have made it into the Belgian mentor’s team, clearly overtaking Zwane and Jali in the process. Now, “only fools don’t change their minds,” was the phrase used, in part, by the coach when asked about his change of tune by finally considering Zwane for selection. The coach also mentioned the absence of his other preferred attacking players as one of the reasons Zwane got the nod.

Now, Jali continues to be overlooked despite everything going on. It is undoubted that Jali is currently the best central midfielder in the country, hands down! The way he’s been protecting the Downs backline, screening the opposition and even initiating attacks has been remarkable to watch. He’s also hardly visited the medical room and his constant absence from the national team continues to mesmerise everyone. If coach Broos is to achieve his goals, one of the players he needs to seriously set his eyes on is Andile Jali! Look, Jali not making the current squad is hardly surprising based on the coach’s past remarks and standpoint. When he changed his mind about Zwane, then that gave rise to expectations for change of mind. One thing we need to be clear on is that team selection or national team call-ups are the head coach and the technical team’s prerogative. They also don’t have to explain why certain players are not called up, as it is within their rights to choose to only discuss players that are in the team. However, when the coach decides to engage in the discussion about one player, then the coach opens himself up to further scrutiny. His answer to the question about Jali’s continued absence was too interesting to go unnoticed. “If you talk about Andile Jali, I think no.” When pushed for explanation, the coach decided to keep quiet and then said, “Yes, but again when I said what I said three quarters now ago, I don’t want to disrespect the nation again.” Make of this whatever you want.

One thing is for sure, the coach’s remarks are open to interpretation. It could mean a whole lot of things and it is such a pity no further comment was made. It would be great to know what the coach really meant by, firstly, putting a ‘no’ next to Jali’s name and secondly by not wanting to disrespect the nation again. If you refuse to exercise your mind, it will be easy to say the coach simply meant he’s not going to call Jali up and that he doesn’t want to offend anyone again, therefore it is best he keeps quiet. If anyone accepts that as an explanation, then something is really wrong. It is unfair for the coach to indulge the public when it comes to Zwane and then refuse to do so when it comes to Jali. One is tempted to even suggest that whatever reasons the coach has for not selecting Jali are personal, not professional. It is crystal clear now that Jali’s exclusion has absolutely nothing to do with his performances. Can we afford to have personal issues between a head coach and one of the best players in the country hold us to ransom, if indeed there’s beef between the two? At club level, that can easily be pushed under the carpet, but certainly not at this level. There’s no place for egos or personal issues at this level. In fact, even at club level we can’t have the team’s success held back by individuals. National team is about bringing the best the country has, together and form a strong squad that will represent the country. This is bigger than any individual. Jali’s name belongs amongst the best in the country at the moment, especially when age doesn’t seem to matter that much anymore. 

Coach Broos owes us an explanation on Jali’s continuous exclusion from the team, specially when the Matatiele-born midfielder has declared his willingness to heed the call, should the coach see fit. He’s also made it clear that he believes he can help the national team, so it is not like coach Broos needs to beg Jali to play for the country. Jali has come short of, in fact, begging for consideration. The explanation isn’t just for us but also for the coach’s clarity so that he’s not misunderstood. That’s why one feels an explanation is necessary, so that we all know what he really meant. 

Once again, had coach Broos not discussed Zwane and not even bothered to explain himself, even when asked about Jali, we’d all accept that he probably doesn’t see a role for AJ15 in his team, assuming that his age continues to be a factor as mysterious as that would sound, after some ‘over-age’ players were selected ahead of him. In fact, even Zwane is a year older than Jali, which begs more questions. As if that wasn’t enough, Mshishi, as Zwane is affectionately known, will be the first to admit that he hasn’t had the best of starts to the new campaign. This could possibly be the worst time since coach Broos arrived that he’s finally giving Mshishi the nod after sidelining him when he truly deserved to be in the reckoning for a place in the Bafana team. Is he selected to shut everyone up, bowing to pressure, to appease everyone by ensuring not to ‘disrespect the nation again’ or simply to prove a point by setting Mshishi up for failure?  

Remember, some of us had given up on these two players being called up as the coach made it clear that they were surplus to requirements. As much as we respect the coach’s prerogative in team selection, when he makes incomplete and unclear messages, then he has to be held accountable. He needs to take us into his confidence so that we are all on the same page. Once again, the answer to the Jali question leaves more questions than answers. It probably would have been even better to decline to discuss players who are not called up. Until then, coach Broos owes us an explanation on Jali! 



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