JOHANNESBURG – South Africa's senior national men’s soccer team, Bafana Bafana, have been on a downward trend in the past few years.
The popular side hit its lowest low in 2011 when they failed to reach the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations tournament jointly hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in 2012 having gravely misinterpreted the rules of the competition.
That fiasco put a dent on past president Kirsten Nematandani’s executive, something the former president of Africa’s biggest football federation lived with until the end of his tenure last September.
The monumental error of not familiarising oneself with the competition rules was further aggravated by allegations that some friendly matches involving Bafana Bafana, leading up to the Fifa 2010 World Cup might have been compromised by the underworld match fixing syndicates.
On the field of play, the Bafana squad continued to blow hot and cold – at times showing some glimpses of the side that is capable of conquering the world but, at the same time, losing some straight-forward games much to the chagrin of the vicious media and intolerant fans.
Mzansi soccer supporters are unforgiving. They expect their teams to win everything especially on the continent. Their argument is their players are probably the highest paid stars in Africa. On top of that they have the infrastructure most African teams can only dream of.
But with Orlando Pirates once again closing in on winning the CAF Champions Cup in what will be their second African title, there is lingering hope that the club’s success would be transferred onto the national team.
When Pirates last won the Champions Cup in 1995, the following year, Bafana Bafana also conquered Africa.
This week, coach Gordon Igesund responded to Pirates’ good showing on the African continent by naming no fewer than nine members from the club for the friendly match against minnows Swaziland.
The new South African Football Association (Safa) executive has also taken advantage of the looming Bucs’ success by starting to prepare for a new-look Bafana Bafana side.
Bafana is Safa’s biggest brand and the Association has begun rebuilding the outfit with the hope of achieving short to medium and long term successes.
The match against reigning World and European champions Spain at the home of South African football, the 90 000-plus Soccer City Stadium on November 19, is the beginning of such a grand plan.
The match will be followed by another titanic one, most likely against Brazil in March. According to new Safa President, Danny Jordaan one can only become a champion by playing against champions.
Bafana’s chances of winning against the two sides might look slim but the bigger picture is to prepare the team for future success.
This is the vision of this executive and knowing the pedigree of Jordaan, Africa must be wary of Bafana Bafana again. Once this man (Jordaan) has a dream, he will live to witness what he envisages.
The 2010 Fifa World Cup CEO is a visionary soccer administrator and he has begun rebuilding the image of SAFA. It is a question of time before hard-to-please Mzansi soccer fans start smiling again.
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