Bartlett: Chiefs gain is Bafanas loss

Cape Town – Few might accuse SAFA of doing things in a hurry – remember how long it took to replace Shakes Mashaba as the Bafana Bafana coach? – and after apparent dithering again by the national soccer body they have now been pipped at the post by Kaizer Chiefs with the signing by Amakhosi of former ace striker Shaun Bartlett as their assistant coach.

The second-highest Bafana goal-scorer behind Benni McCarthy has in recent Bafana matches acted as an assistant to Stuart Baxter on a match-to-match basis, with the head coach believed to have been keen to have Bartlett signed up by SAFA on a permanent basis.

Glamour club Chiefs, however, in the midst of one of the most critical periods in their 46-year history, had other ideas and after dismissing the amiable Giovanni Solinas as their coach in mid-season and replacing him with Ernst Middendorp, they came up with the proposition of the seasoned German forming a dream combination with Bartlett.

It might be termed a desperate search for success after remaining painfully trophyless of official major titles in what has run into a fourth successive season.

What prevented the Bartlett betrothal with Bafana ultimately being cemented on a more permanent basis is not altogether clear, although it has been suggested that an agreement on the financial implications had something to do with it.

SAFA appears to be reluctant to fork out what might be termed big money after suffering a disconcerting R18 million loss in the immediate past financial year.

Penny-wise, pound foolish some might suggest, with only time telling whether SAFA missed the boat or not.

Meanwhile, the Middendorp-Bartlett duo got off to an encouraging launch this week with a much-needed boost for Chiefs in the 1-0 Absa Premiership victory over SuperSport United.

But Chiefs will be faced with an excruciatingly difficult programme when their Absa Premiership programme resumes in the New Year.

They have successive games against defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns (home, January 5); immediate past champions Bidvest Wits (away, January 5); AmaZulu (away, June 15); Cape Town City (home, February 2) and to top it all a showdown against traditional rivals Orlando Pirates at home on February 9.

After this the Middendorp/Bartlett axis will likely either be hailed as heroes by Amakhosi's nationwide army of fanatical followers, or find themselves grappling to come to terms with a largely inexplicable decline of the charismatic club who had in past years been able to take success for granted, but who have more recently lost their Midas touch in what has been likened to a slide of hoodoo-like proportions.

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