Pressing Issues: Safa must say ‘never, never again’

2014-05-23 10:00

‘Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”

These words were uttered by South Africa’s icon, the late Nelson Mandela, in his inaugural speech as the first democratically elected president of South Africa at the Union Buildings on May 10 1994.

What a day!

So it is that while today is 20 days before the world gathers in Brazil, and top football-playing nations are packing their bags and heading for the biggest sporting spectacle in the world, our beloved Bafana Bafana are doing the same but heading in the opposite direction, down under.

Bafana Bafana will face Australia, which is ranked 59th in the world, on May 26 in Sydney, and face world number 111, New Zealand, in Auckland on May 30.

Both countries are far from being world-beaters in the game of the pigskin, you would agree. Such is our national team’s fate that it is no better off, with a ranking of 65 in the world.

This is thanks to Pitso Mosimane and Gordon Igesund, who failed to guide the national team to be one of the five from this continent who made it to the extravaganza.

Leaders of the SA Football Association (Safa) should take a leaf from Madiba’s ground-breaking speech and say: “Never, never again shall our national team suffer the indignity of being the butt of jokes by failing to qualify for major football events.”

This is the task facing our football leadership: when South Africa engage in their first serious challenge, the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in September, they must be sure that the team is ready to compete.

This time should be used to lay the foundation that will ensure that the days of Bafana Bafana underperforming internationally are a thing of the past.

It is sad that while the eyes of the world will be on Brazil, South African players will be sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs.

Mzansi soccer followers will have to choose foreign teams, just like the years of isolation, as the country will not be represented.

I overheard a colleague this week say he will go out and buy a replica jersey of another country. This is the kind of embarrassment that must not be allowed in future.

With the facilities South Africa possesses, it is difficult to believe we are not one of the five African nations competing at the World Cup from June 12 to July 13.

It’s now 20 years since Madiba said those words and all we have to point to in football is that 1996 victory at the Afcon.

Very soon, that triumph will be another 20 years old and we do need something fresh to celebrate.

If we look at the current Bafana Bafana squad, there are a number of players who have reached their sell-by date.

It is high time the team was started afresh and a new generation of players blooded.

It is such a pity that Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was right when he asked what this generation of players have achieved or done for the country.

This is the challenge Safa must pass to the new generation that is to take up the baton post the 2014 Fifa World Cup.

A lot of talking has been done but now it is time for action. Madiba’s rainbow nation deserves better.

It is up to Safa, as custodians of football in this country, to stop the nation’s suffering so that when the world heads to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 (that is if the Gulf nation will still be hosts after Fifa president Sepp Blatter said it was a mistake awarding them the global event), our beloved country is among the 32 nations represented there.

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