road to south africa

Backing for under-fire South Africa boss Santana

October 16, 2009

South Africa football boss Kirsten Nematandani believes it will be unfair to sack under-fire coach Joel Santana on the back of the country's latest two defeats because a new three-man team appointed to look into the performance of the national team have only just begun their work.

The 2010 World Cup hosts suffered their eighth loss in nine games when they went down 1-0 to Iceland on Tuesday, prompting even louder calls for the Brazilian to be axed.

That defeat came hot on the heels of a 1-0 loss to Norway at the weekend, but Nematandani, who last week employed former national coaches Jomo Sono and Clive Barker as well as top local coach, Gavin Hunt, to investigate the decline of Bafana Bafana, insists it is too soon to get rid of Santana.

"We have just hired a new team of assessors, and it would be unfair to fire the coach after just one game with these new arrangements,'' the South African Football Association (SAFA) president said. "The assessors are not obliged to hand in a report for the one game [against Iceland].

"It's only logical that we wait for the next games. But if they feel the need to hand in a report, then we will also make a decision based on those assessments.''

Those next games he was referring to are South Africa's final two friendly internationals of 2009 against Japan and Jamaica on home soil in the middle of next month.

Santana, who was relatively unknown outside Brazil before his appointment, has struggled to inspire Bafana Bafana in recent months and frustration continues to grow amongst the public.

But speaking after the latest loss in Reykjavik, he remained defiant that the team was still headed in the right direction.

"Obviously I am not happy with the losses, but it was a good outing for the side,'' he said. "It was important for my players to experience the rigours of international football as it will build their character.

"I am happy that I gave some players a chance away from home, and they did not disappoint.''

Looking back on the two-game tour, he added: "The last match was better than the first, the marking and shooting was better, but sometimes we need to use our pace more when attacking, and also we should not give our opponents space.''