‘It was the most incredible feeling, but it could have been a disaster’ – Find out more about the 1996 Afcon Final in an excerpt from Coach: The Life and Soccer Times of Clive Barker
More about the book!
Jacana Media has shared an excerpt from Coach: The Life and Soccer Times of Clive Barker!
About the book:
3 February 1996. FNB Stadium, Soweto. South Africa vs Tunisia. It is the final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations … the crowd goes wild as the star striker scores his second goal. A man on the sideline takes to the field as if he’s an aeroplane in flight. Arms stretched out to the sides with his head and shoulders hunched forward, Clive Barker propels himself into his signature ‘Flying Man’, and expressions of excitement and joy follow as he flies across the field, whipping the 80,000 fans into a further frenzy.
Barker’s trademark flight of victory is what football fans associate with world-renowned soccer coach Clive Barker. Now author Michael Marnewick has written a book that offers a first-class glimpse into the life of this extraordinary South African, detailing everything from his pre-coaching days and how he avoided bankruptcy by driving taxis, to his early coaching jobs and making it into the professional ranks and ultimately to the position of national soccer coach.
The book is not only an in-depth look at Clive Barker the coach, but also gives insight into Clive Barker the man, the husband, the father and the patriot, who helped shape legends in South African football by working with and coaching talent in townships. Truly, like his hero Nelson Mandela, a man of the people.
Coach is an important record of South Africa’s football history, capturing the social and political upheaval in the country during the dark days of apartheid and leading into South Africa’s golden period of international football when Barker, as the country’s most successful and longest running national coach, led the team to their only African Cup of Nations success in 1996, before qualification for the 1998 Soccer World Cup.
Read the excerpt:
The Africa Cup of Nations Final
I woke up on the morning of the final, probably one of the most monumental days of my life, with a stark awareness of the magnitude of what was expected of us. The range of emotions running through all of us added to the hype of the occasion. We were excited, nervous, happy and optimistic. But there was pressure, plenty of it. The burden of expectation was enormous and although it was wonderful having Madiba around, that only added to the weight we were already carrying on our shoulders.
Everyone was switched on that day. He had been at the Sunnyside Hotel with us, together with the wives and girlfriends of the players and the squad. That morning at breakfast, I was joined by the Minister of Sport, Steve Tshwete, who took a call from a rather worried Minister of Police who reported that there was a crowd at the stadium pushing down the walls and barriers, trying to get inside.
Black South Africans had supported the Springboks in the previous year’s successful Rugby World Cup and, in a show of support and reconciliation, many white fans booked their tickets online for the football final. However, black fans who had been supporting the team from the very start of the campaign found themselves unable to get tickets through the usual channels. So when they arrived at the stadium but couldn’t get in, the Minister gave the order to open the gates to allow them in. If the capacity was 60,000, there were 80,000 people there, some hanging from the rafters.
It was the most incredible feeling, but it could also have been a disaster. By making the call, Minister of Police Steve Tshwete had taken a chance, risking injury to a lot of people. He was a tough man, a top-class person and I loved him. After the celebrations following our victory, he really got into the spirit and at one stage put his arm around me and said, ‘Clive, take me to the toilet or I’ll fall over.’ Finals are special. I like the quiet and solitude of going into a cup final dressing room early and I was pleased to get the opportunity for this final too. I love the calmness before a match; I could fall asleep there.
On that day, everyone was nervous and uptight and, of course, in a match like that, you have to play it down or emotions and nerves can get the better of some players. If you’re playing a team at the bottom of the league, you as the coach have to talk for a long time, but if you’re playing against the top sides in the world, you don’t have to say much; your side is motivated as it is.
We were the only team in the competition that never warmed up on the pitch; we would do it in the car park every time we played. We were happy to do it there and the players decided that this was how we would do it each time. It was a chance to be a little bit different and perhaps avoid the excitement and public scrutiny in a quiet place. Like all finals, it’s really about the team you select and how you play on the day, and I remember that I had to make a decision to play either Shaun Bartlett or Mark Williams. Mark had played in nearly all the games and scored regularly and there was no reason to leave him out beyond a gut feeling and a decision based on tactics. I felt that Shaun was quicker, although Mark will deny that and argue the point.
They would have been equally good choices; I just went with Shaun. And when I announced the team, I looked across at Mark who I had left out and he showed no emotion – I thought he would, but, to his credit, he wasn’t bigger than the team or the occasion. He was a big man and he took it the right way. When we left for the stadium, he was the first to lead the singing on the bus; he really seemed to have taken it well.
He could have been sour about the decision, but he came on to play a huge role. So, despite what must have been hugely disappointing for him, he got his reward after all. With 20 minutes to go in the game, I made a double change and brought Mark on. There were times when I had to make those kinds of decisions, but in the end, I think they balanced out well. In saying that, in football they say only the guys who start actually like you and the others will tolerate you at best, hate you at worst.
Mark was still involved in the game, though, having been selected on the bench and I later heard that he was poking his head around whispering, ‘Tell the coach to make a change.’ He had readied himself to run on, shin pads in place, but as he sprinted onto the field, he shouted and his false teeth shot out of his mouth. I looked at the players, they looked at me – no one was going to pick them up for him.
The history books record that Mark scored both goals in the final. The first, in the 73rd minute when he headed home a chip from Eric Tinkler, with the clincher coming a couple of minutes later when Doctor had the ball, looked up, caressed it down the channel and Mark ran onto it and put it away, probably saying to himself, ‘The first goal was for the country, but the second was for you, Coach.’