Energetic, young, moving

2011-02-12 18:54

The South African Football Association last week announced that they were looking at the possibility of changing the Bafana Bafana name, as they have already lost two court cases over the name to businessman Stanton Woodrush, who registered the Bafana trademark in 1993.

Woodrush was reported to have raked in about R80 million from the name of the team’s merchandise during the World Cup. The latest development has set tongues wagging, as many believe the name has become as iconic to and synonymous with the country as that of former state president Nelson Mandela. TIMOTHY MOLOBI spoke to the three journalists who coined the name in 1992 and sourced other views on the issue:

Former president Thabo Mbeki registered his reservations about the name Bafana Bafana in a Metro FM interview in 2007, saying: “What kind of a name is it? I don’t think it is fit for a senior national team or the hosts of the 2010 World Cup.”

The South African Football Association (Safa) is divided on whether the popular nickname should remain or be ditched.

»?Safa president Kirsten Nematandani said last week: “We have been engaged in many legal battles on the issue of the rights over Bafana, and the association felt as a move forward that it was critical that this was looked into in the interests of the nation. We have appointed a three-man committee to look into the matter.”

»?Former Sowetan sports editor Molefi Mika, together with the deputy sports editor Sello Rabothata and City Press sports editor S’Busiso Mseleku, who was then a soccer correspondent at Sowetan, came up with the nickname. The three are quoted as saying:

“Safa is being dishonest and should tell the truth on the reasons they want the name change,” said Mika.

“Is it because of the pressure from the politicians, or what? Are they really saying they did not get a single cent from the brand?

“I find the decision surprising as Safa pumped in money enhancing the Bafana brand leading to the World Cup and encouraging the supporters to rally behind the team.

“There are lots of things that Safa should be focusing on rather than wasting time on the name.”

»?Said Rabothata: “Woodrush should put the interest of the country first. He should be saying, what can I do for my country, not what can the country do for me. I find what he is doing to be selfish as he is putting his commercial interest first, not the emotional attachment of the country. Abandoning the name would come at a huge cost as it would mean starting from scratch. Books have been written and it will mean taking them off the shelves. But I’ve come to a stage where I don’t really care what happens.”

»?Mseleku said: “As the custodians of football, running the sport on behalf of the nation, Safa must take a decision that it feels is right for the country.

“I don’t know the deliberations that led to the association considering the name change, but they must come up with a decision based on the country’s interest and not on selfish reasons.

“However, my greatest concern is about the team’s performance and not its name. I subscribe to what William Shakespeare said about a rose by any other name still smelling as sweet. We should not concentrate on trivial issues lest we are accused like Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned.”

»?The chairperson of Orlando Pirates, the Premier Soccer League and Safa vice-president, Irvin Khoza, said: “The matter needs to be resolved urgently. There is so much brand value, essence and emotion involved with the Bafana name. Doing away with it won’t be worth it. There is a need to engage with the people involved and if they come up with a reasonable fee, then pay it.

“The name was not conceived in the boardroom and it has lots of emotions as it defines the era when we (SA football) were readmitted to international football. It has so much history and it was born organically from football.

“It does not mean ‘young boys’ as many argue out of context sometimes. It came at a time (when) the team was taking the opposition by storm and making them chase shadows. Colloquially, it goes deeper into our lingua franca (common communication between people of different languages) and means energetic, young and moving, not literally ‘young boys’.?”

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