Give me hope, Bafana

2014-09-13 00:00

HAVING conversations about Bafana Bafana that don’t involve profanities and blasphemies are rare occurrences, but there were plenty of those going on this week after two extremely encouraging Afcon qualifiers.

Shakes Mashaba is up and running, and with four points from their first two matches, Bafana will now be backing themselves to qualify for Morocco 2015 at little more than a canter.

Sir Alex Ferguson used to say, in the days when Manchester United played Champions League football, that it took 10 points from the group stages to all but ensure qualification through to the knockouts. If we apply the same logic to Bafana’s Afcon qualifying campaign, then victories at home against Sudan and the Congo should be enough to go through. That would be the minimum requirement, but Mashaba will be expecting his side to pick up points on their trips to Nigeria and the Congo too.

It has been an encouraging start. Against Nigeria, Bafana were fierce. The physicality of the visitors was quelled by determination and grit — summed up best by two Jon Obi Mikel incidents. First, the towering midfielder — Nigeria’s golden boy — was on the receiving end of a nasty tackle from Bafana’s Thabo Matlaba. Mikel was livid and went straight after the Orlando Pirates fullback. Mikel, at 1,89 metres, is some 20 centimetres taller than Matlaba and when the pair squared off there was only going to be one winner. But Matlaba’s reaction to the advancing giant was priceless. He stood firm, head pointed skywards, and shoved the Chelsea man back a metre or two. Dynamite, small packages and all that. But, more importantly, it was a moment that exposed Nigeria’s frustration at not being able to have their own way in Cape Town. It was also a moment indicative of the passion that was fuelling Bafana that night. There was unity.

The other Mikel moment came after a corner, when the ball fell to Dean Furman. Immense for Bafana on the night, Furman backed himself for a shot while running at pace from just outside the area. He missed the ball, but went crashing into Mikel. Mikel was left in a heap on the floor, while Furman dusted himself off and was on his merry way again.

Furman’s performance was extraordinary. It was difficult to count the number of crucial tackles he made in the match. His decision to play for Bafana has been the biggest blessing we’ve had in a long while. But he was not the only one who impressed.

Andile Jali’s man-of-the-match performance alongside Furman was a first-class display, while Erick Matoho’s command at centre back was equally admirable. Sibusiso Vilakazi is fast on his way to becoming the darling of South African football, and Mandla Masango caused problems down the right for the Nigerian defence.

Bafana reduced the reigning Afcon champions to a nervous mess by the end of 90 minutes, and the visitors were lucky to come out of the match with a draw.

It surely spells the end of the Tshabalala-inspired Bafana of 2010, and the likes of Teko Modise, Katlego Mphela and Bongani Khumalo surely have no way back in.

How Mashaba handles Itumeleng Khune’s return will also be interesting. Senzo Meyiwa hasn’t really been tested in these opening two fixtures, but he has lead the side with aplomb and made the most of his opportunity.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, and there is still a long way to go before Bafana provide any real reason to celebrate. But there is hope, and hope is more than we’ve had in quite a while.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.