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What's In A Name?

16 February 2014, 19:00

Dear Mr Mseleku,

So as to not confuse the intention of this letter, let it be clear from the very beginning that this piece has not be written to offend or insult anyone. More than it being JUST an opinion piece, it is my opinion…and I understand that not everyone may share it and not everyone may agree, however, at the end of the day, I believe that the right and the opportunity to express oneself belongs to everybody. Whether one does or does not do so, is entirely up to the individual.

I would like to exercise my right to express my opinion.

Second to the above declaration, I would like to state how thrilled I was, when watching the Zimbabwe vs. Nigeria match, that the stands seemed to be more full than when the South African national team played (not all the time, but in this particular competition). It thrilled me because well, it brought me to the humbling realisation that foreign nationals (coincidentally from the two highest concentration of immigrants to South Africa, being Zimbabweans and Nigerians, who have found an abode in this wonderful country (legally or illegally)) will turn up at the stands to support their countries. The idea of unwavering support, irrespective of circumstances and performance is one that I romance.

In the well-written article I read, which this letter is a response to, I discovered a dramatic irony. The name “Bafana Bafana” was adopted as a part of a campaign to generate and stimulate support of the National Team. The irony lies in the fact the very same person/people who coined that name “Bafana Bafana” as an attempt to get the nation to rally behind its football troops have turned around and have started criticising that very same team they once launched a campaign to generate a support of.

When I think about the concept of “support” I don’t imagine that support has an expiry date nor does it have conditions. If you are going to support, then support. Don’t criticise, encourage. And that is the long and short of the purpose of this letter. I don’t understand why we are so quick to turn on our National Team when they do not perform to the extent that we may have liked them to. Furthermore, I wonder if the “fans” understand that their support, as the 12th man, plays a bigger role than they understand.

Example – if our National Team is being told by our Sports Minister that they (we) are a “bunch of losers”, has anyone stopped to imagine what effect that may have on the teams morale? What about the notion of supporting the team? How is it affected when one of the leaders of the country, the sports leader of the country mind you, openly declares his criticism and defines the as the players, the same players that wear the country’s colours, as “losers”…without providing a solution?

How do we then rally behind our team if our very own leaders are openly not doing so? Not only political leaders, but every person in their own right who watches, discusses and enjoys football. When we are out there practising a prophecy of doom, who is supporting the team? How are we ever going to start winning if no one is ever encouraging the team? With the same media attention that the criticism is getting?

That’s issue number 1.

The second dispute I have is with the name “Bafana Bafana”.

What is in a name anyway?

Your reputation is in your name. Not always necessarily what your name means, but what your name represents. A name possesses the idea people MUST have about you as well as the idea people WILL have about you. It is a part of your identity.

I think we all know this.

What I am not so sure about is if we are aware about what a name says about you, to yourself. Now, I’m not saying that a there is anything wrong with being called “Boys Boys” or “The Boys” or even just “Boys”. What I am saying is: is that how you look at yourself? Is that how you want to be perceived?

No man who prides himself in himself and his achievements will ever be content with being referred to as a boy. Not as a part of his ego, but as an expression of knowing exactly where he comes from. It infuriates a man to be called a boy.

That being said, what do we say about ourselves when we refer to ourselves as “The Boys”? Is that really the self-image we have?

In the column, comparisons were made to other national teams that also possess seemingly un-inspired names. It is not ok that we must be ok with a sucky team name simply because everyone else around us has one. Our name is our identity. Do we want to be known, on a global stage as “The Boys”? If that’s what we want, then it’s cool. But we must agree that that is what we want and we must be proud of that name.

But as men…as a man, how do you shift your paradigm towards the mindset that is: contentment in mediocrity, that you don’t mind being called a boy? This baffles me.

The Super Eagles, The Zebras, The Indomitable Lions, La Roja etc. These are not just names, this is how decision makers of a country have decided that they are best represented, not only the players on the pitch, but the nation as a whole. The decision to select that name/title is probably influenced by a particular point in the nation’s history, a colour, an element or an animal that bests resonates with the identity of the Nation as a whole.

When we come to Bafana Bafana, the name not only represents those 11 players on the pitch including the bench and the coach…it represents us, as South Africans and I don’t know if people (the nation as a whole) are comfortable with being internationally renowned as a group of ball playing “Boys”.

I am also not entirely sure of the psychological effect attached to knowing that you, as an opponent, are playing a match against a National Team of “Boys”. What psychological effect does representing a team of “Boys” have on you when you are playing against a team of “Indomitable Lions”? When you do stop to think about yourself, what do you stop to think about yourself…with such a name?

Is this really what we want to be known as?

I don’t know about the rest of South Africa, but personally, I believe that teams would be more intimidated and fans would be more supportive if we not only called ourselves, but also looked at ourselves as men…”amaDoda”.

Nevertheless and needless to say, I support Bafana Bafana and my suggestion of a name change comes more from a spirit of encouragement than it does of criticism.

My focus is not on what we are doing wrong and who to blame for that. My focus is on ways to improve what we are doing and do better.

But this is just my opinion.

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