We should be happy Bafana Bafana didn’t qualify for World Cup

2014-06-28 11:59

Swallowing Ivory Coast’s excruciatingly painful exit from the World Cup the other night was really hard.

Even as the highlights were being played and replayed and the analysts were yadda-ing on, I still expected some miracle that would change the points tally and ensure that the Ivorians got through to the last 16. It was a feeling akin to what followed Ghana’s quarterfinal defeat to Uruguay in 2010.

Both defeats were characterised by controversial incidents. It is one thing for a team to lose because they were outplayed but quite another when the outcome is decided by foul play.

In 2010, it was the hand of Luis Suárez – that abominable prince of darkness – who cost Ghana a quarterfinal berth with the deliberate use of his hand. On Tuesday night it was Georgios Samaras who faked a trip and fooled the referee into awarding the penalty that killed off Ivory Coast.

To be fair to the Greeks and the Uruguayans, their victories were not just due to unfair play. Except for the ‘Hand of Lucifer’ incident at FNB in 2010, both Ghana and Uruguay played a terrific game of football. Both deserved to go through to the last four.

On Tuesday night, the Greeks were actually the better performers. On both occasions, the African teams had themselves to blame as they fluffed chances that would have made the cheating interventions by Suárez and Samaras irrelevant.

But the reality is that had Suárez and Samaris not indulged in evil, the outcomes would have been very different.

Which brings me to the real point of this column. Why should we be happy that Bafana Bafana was not at the World Cup?

The dejection the Ivorians and other teams that were sent packing this week felt is the same that we South Africans felt when failed to qualify for the tournament.

You will remember the depression that befell the nation when Kaizer Chiefs striker Bernard Parker scored an own goal that just about cost us qualification in Addis Ababa in September last year.

Although Fifa gave SA a lifeline by deducting points from Ethiopia for having fielded a suspended player in an earlier match against Botswana, our goose was already cooked.

This deduction would have stood us in good stead were it not for that fateful own goal. Bafana had a mountain to climb in the second leg at home and it was to be Ethiopia who would go on to participate in the playoffs against Nigeria. The West Africans eventually progressed to the global tournament.

We were sad, but in retrospect, it was a good thing.

Watching the quality of the football on display in Brazil, it is clear that we would have been an embarrassment. Had we pipped Nigeria to the World Cup, we would most likely have been up against two-time champions Argentina, tricky Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran, expertly coached by Carlos Queiroz.

Nigeria beat Bosnia-Herzegovina and should have beaten Iran, but were frustrated by defensive tactics. They held their own in going down to the formidable Argentineans.

So the questions that arise are: Would Bafana has been able to withstand Iran’s brisk counter-attacking? Would they have been able to contain the rampant Angel di Maria and cut off his supply to Lionel Messi? Would they have been able to deal with the fast pace of this World Cup?

And given our bluntness upfront, is it likely that we would have come back from this high-scoring World Cup without having scored a single goal and tons scored against us?

This lowly newspaperman would like to posit that not even the inyanga employed by the Marikana Commission’s mysterious Mr X would have given us the magical powers to perform well.

So let us just enjoy the football and not rue the fact that we are not in Brazil.

The priority for SA is to confront the reality that we are just not good enough. We are not good enough to progress beyond the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations and we are not good enough to beat an Ethiopia with a GDP nearly 10 times smaller.

We have to accept that regardless of the strength of the coach we will hire next month, glory will not come overnight. We will have to be patient and accept that he is trying to create a masterpiece with gallery exhibition piece with children’s crayons.

Such patience will save us tears at the 2015 Afcon in Morocco and will lessen our expectations of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

So, as citizens of other nations jump for joy or shed tears of pain, let’s jump and cry with them in the knowledge that our loyalties to our chosen countries are just temporary. They are just about adding passion to our enjoyment of the game.

And let us be thankful to the Kaizer Chiefs striker who dashed our dreams. For once, an Amakhosi man did something useful.

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