Johannesburg- Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has had a torrid time with the national team’s followers, clamouring to know what gripe does he have against Mamelodi Sundowns super-midfielder Themba Zwane.
Broos announced his preliminary and final 23-man squad for the back-to-back 2022 QatarFifa World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia on Saturday and Tuesday next week sans Mshishi, as Zwane ka Mangethe is affectionately known.
When defending himself, the national coach emphasises that the door is open for any player worth to be selected into the national team, depending on their form and performance.
But the Zwane brigade is resolute and unwavering that the white-headed coach has something against Zwane, an outstanding player and current winner of the PSL’s Midfielder of the Season and the holder of Player of the Season award, for the last Premiership campaign. Arguably one of the best players in the Premiership at the moment, Zwane’s omission has surprised many as they believe he is one of those players who can turn Bafana’s fortunes around when the chips are down.
Those idolising Zwane believe no other midfielder in the country can challenge the might of bully players from African football powerhouses like Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, the latter did not have a full complement of their England-based players due to SA being on the Covid-19 red-list when Bafana thrashed them 1-0 in the World Cup qualifiers in Joburg early in September.
His magical feet, coupled with ability to turn things around, ensuring he either constantly delivers the ball to strikers or even goes to the extent of scoring himself, is world-class and his consistency over the past five seasons led to Sundowns lifting the PSL title four times in a row. Broos is sticking to his guns, he made no bones about the fact that the Bafana team comprised “old” players when he took over the reins from the sacked Molefi Ntseki in May.
His critics think it would not do any harm for him to have a balance between youth and experience, and that’s exactly where Zwane fits in as a midfield general for league champions Sundowns and with Bafana under Broos’ predecessors.
What really counts against Zwane, I believe rightly or wrongly, is age. At 32, the engine of Masandawana is way too old for Broos, as he believes in youthful talent. The coach is looking to have his spring chickens for Qatar 2022 next year but if they don’t make it, that would not be a train smash, but what is crucial for Broos is to have Bafana at the jointly hosted 2026 Canada, Mexico and US World Cup.
Broos’ detractors contend that because he is not under pressure to qualify for Qatar, it is the very reason why he can afford to gamble and leave out players like Zwane, as his mission is to build a team that will qualify for the 2023 African Cup of Nations and the 2026 World Cup.
Either way, Broos and his employers at Safa know better as they sit together at the Safa House air-conditioned boardrooms to map out the future of South African football, otherwise if the football big guns were not singing the same tune with Broos, they would have told him in uncertain terms that he needs the Mshishi magic because it would be a case of Qatar here we come or bust.
While many of us want to see Bafana Bafana at the Middle Eastern country of Qatar next year, this is not mandatory for Broos to achieve. Broos is building a future Bafana and Mshishi is definitely not in his plans.
So, stop baying for the coach’s blood for omitting Zwane. The truth is that Qatar 2022 is not his mandate. I rest my case.
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