South Africa coach warned for speaking Zulu at CAN press conference
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South Africa coach Shakes Mashaba has been warned about his conduct after he refused to speak English at the official press conference before his side’s opening game at the Africa Cup of Nations against Algeria.
Reporters from Africa and Europe gathered on Sunday night at the Estadio Mongomo to ask the veteran trainer about his side’s first match in Group C on Monday night against Algeria and their prospects against Ghana and Senegal, the other teams in the pool.
But Mashaba surprised around 100 journalists and the press conference organisers by responding to the first question in Zulu.
Rather than adding a response in English, a language in which he has held press conferences in the past, he stuck to his native tongue.
With French and English the official languages of the Africa Cup of Nations, the coach’s impromptu stance left media officers baffled.
“I can’t speak French. Why don’t you get a translator for Zulu? This football is for Africa. It’s not for French, it’s for Africa,” Mashaba said in English. “We’re in the Africa Cup of Nations. Everybody has a right to use his language. Why are you forcing us to use languages that suit you?”
Earlier a pre-match conference involving the Algeria coach Christian Gourcouff and skipper Rafik Hallich brought angry exchanges between Algerian, Senegalese and South African journalists when an Algerian TV reporter asked for Halliche to reply in Arabic.
Mashaba added: “People are forcing me to speak a language that’s not my language. You can’t force me. This is the Africa Cup of Nations. There shouldn’t be one dictating to another. We’ve got to come together to understand one another. Whether you get aggressive or not I speak my own language, that’s all.”
Even after being reminded of protocol and his sudden insistence on using Zulu, Mashaba said: “This is the Africa Cup of Nations. No one must impose himself on the other.”
A spokesperson for the organisers, the Confederation of African Football, said on Monday: “An official report has been sent to the confederation. We have told Mr Mashaba about his responsibilities."
Mashaba has been in charge of South Africa since last July. It is his second stint in charge of the national squad. He was sacked on the eve of the 2004 Cup of Nations following rows with senior players.
If Mashaba refuses to heed his warning he faces a formal reprimand from the African confederation and a fine of 90,000 euros.
"What happened at the press conference before the match against Algeria will not happen again,” the CAF spokesperson added.
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