Bafana: Tears into ecstasy

2014-11-09 19:00

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What was a sombre setting last week will transform into a place of hope on Saturday, as Bafana Bafana brace themselves to take on Sudan with the intention to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

Last week, we witnessed scenes of a gloomy Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, where the funeral of slain Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa was held.

The incessant rain flowed into the sea of tears of supporters who turned up in their thousands to bid farewell to the budding star of the local football scene.

In Meyiwa’s honour, the SA Football Association has moved the qualifier from Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit to Moses Mabhida.

By now, the five-year-old stadium has had its fair share of sorrow, what with Meyiwa’s funeral last week as well as Bafana’s heart-breaking loss to Mali in the 2013 Afcon quarterfinal.

So the men’s senior national team will aim to turn the venue into a place of joy and celebration if their safe passage to Morocco is signed, sealed and delivered.

But Coach Shakes Mashaba has warned his troops to brace themselves for a monster of a battle as he expects Sudan to come hard at his team.

“Playing against underdogs is very dangerous. Sudan have nothing to lose and will want to cause an upset,” he warned.

According to Mashaba, Bafana are the team to beat on the continent, given teams from the rest of the continent take a certain added pleasure from beating South Africa.

“It would be a difficult game for us as Sudan are no pushovers. They know that a defeat would mean the end of their campaign and for them it is win or bust,” he added.

Sudan have won just one of their four qualifiers – having beaten defending Afcon champions Nigeria at home – but Mashaba reckons they pose enough of a threat. “We have to make them play with their backs against the wall. This means we have to take the game to them,” he said, revealing little of his strategy.

After failing to score in their two home qualifiers, against Nigeria and Congo, Mashaba believes Bafana’s misfiring in front of goal is a thing of the past.

He has called up Lehlohonolo Majoro and May Mahlangu, hoping they will add some sting to the attack.

Being the first game since Meyiwa’s passing, the qualifier on Saturday will be an emotional one for Mashaba’s players. But he is expecting them to rise to the occasion and play for their fallen hero.

According to the coach, they would enlist the services of a psychologist or a priest to calm the players in the camp, which assembles tonight.

Bafana’s first stop in Durban will be Meyiwa’s final resting place, the Heroes Acre cemetery in Chesterville, tomorrow – something Mashaba hopes will go a long way towards healing.

After Saturday’s game, Bafana travel to Uyo, Nigeria, for their final group match against the Super Eagles on November 19.

After enduring last weekend’s moments of grief, one can only hope Bafana are due for a turn of fortune come Saturday.

– Additional reporting by Ahmed Patel

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