Bafana still riding on past triumphs

2012-07-21 00:00

A FEW weeks ago an invitation landed on my desk asking me to join Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana winger Siphiwe “Shabba” Tshabalala in celebrating two years since scoring the opening goal at the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

A short while later, the South African Football Association (Safa) sent out a media release headlined, “SA football celebrates 20 years of returning to the international fold”.

The statement took us down memory lane, to the day Doctor Khumalo scored that first international goal against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon from the penalty spot on a wet and windswept Kingsmead Stadium on July 7, 1992.

Then it listed “some of the country’s major achievements to date”:

• Hosting and winning the 1996 African Cup of Nations tournament;

• Winning silver at the following edition held in Burkina Faso in 1998;

• Qualifying for the 1998 World Cup tournament in France;

• Winning a bronze medal at the Afcon edition hosted by Nigeria and Ghana in 2000;

• Qualifying for the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan;

• Successfully hosting the 2010 World Cup tournament.

The statement went on to mention a number of top players the country has produced, as well as South Africa’s soccer administrators who serve on Fifa and Confederation of African Football (Caf) committees.

Going through the list of achievements, as well as the Tshabalala invitation, it became obvious that we have had very little to cheer about in our football over the past 20 years.

In fact, if newly appointed Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund fails to reverse the downward spiral, we are going to milk the Tshabalala goal dry just as we have done the 1996 Afcon victory.

While Tshabalala’s goal was important and sent the country into a frenzy and thus deserves to be celebrated, the bigger picture is that we went on to set a sad record by becoming the first host country to bomb out of the World Cup in the first round.

So in all our celebrations, we should have a reality check that will prevent us from getting over-excited.

However, just as it happened in 1994, when a stroke of genius led to the appointment of Clive Barker, Igesund has been embraced and it looks like he is the right man to change Bafana Bafana’s fortunes.

He has already shown his hand once more in the appointment of his technical team and that he needs a clean start. And this follows his warning that no player has a guaranteed place in the national team.

While his appointment of long-serving SuperSport United assistant coach Thomas “Chancha” Madigage is applauded, it has raised the question of why the soft-spoken former Jomo Cosmos player was never roped in by former Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane, with whom he had worked at Matsatsantsa a Pitori for some time.

Safa technical committee chairperson Fanyana Sibanyoni’s suggestion that a reference group made up of Barker, Jomo Sono and Shakes Mashaba be formed to provide input and support to the technical team is a brilliant idea.

Currently the movements by Safa around Bafana Bafana have indicated that they have acknowledged the quagmire the team is in and are prepared to come up with solutions.

If Igesund does what he has achieved with the previous PSL clubs he has worked with since 1996, it won’t be long before we sing Happy Days Are Here Again.

And what a pleasure and a relief that would be for the long-suffering Bafana Bafana fans.

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa’s leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning more than 20 years. He is currently City Press sports editor.

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