Sierra Leone is the one game Bafana Bafana can’t afford to lose, not at any cost

2011-10-09 00:00

THERE have been several crucial afternoons already for Bafana Bafana in the team’s relatively short history.

The sensational day in 1997 when a win over Congo ensured a first ever Soccer World Cup trip for South Africa is one that springs to mind.

Or the torment of the game against

Ghana at Soccer City in 2005 when Bafana needed only a draw, but lost out to Michael Essien and friends, to miss out on the

finals in Germany.

Then there was defeat by Nigeria in Port Elizabeth, despite near total dominance of the game, which meant early elimination in the 2010 African Nations Cup campaign.

Today in Nelspruit is another watershed afternoon, arguably even more important than the previous games.

Bafana Bafana must beat Sierra Leone and qualify for the 2012 continental championships — not just because of Nations Cup qualification, but also because South Africa’s football future is at a crucial juncture. It is crucial because the country’s footballing community have now passed their point of learning, recognition and assistance.

The focus of Fifa, its wealth of assistance and the sympathetic attention of the world have gone with the 2010 World Cup and South African football will never again

enjoy as exalted a place and the material,

financial and knowledge profit that come from hosting a tournament of the significance of the world’s four-yearly football showpiece.

The government will never again open its coffers as it did to create a significant footballing infrastructure and renovate and restore and pay for brilliant pitches that have greatly assisted in a better standard for the domestic game.

South African football has been taken to the table and been fed a good supper. Now it is fat and rich, but on its own.

It needs not only to keep up a high standard of administration and look after the new infrastructure, but also to succeed on the field. To come out of the hosting of the World Cup and then fail to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup would be patently a disaster.

There can be no excuses anymore. A country of South Africa’s resources and means must consistently be in the top five in African football.

There are top coaches at league level, academies dotted around the country to identify young talent and a keen following for the game. Even more importantly, football is awash with sponsorship and television money.

So to lose out to a Sierra Leone, or perhaps Niger (if they beat Egypt), and not qualify for the Nations Cup finals sets the whole footballing scene back enormously.

It will again lead to a perception that South African football is a Mickey Mouse game, full of smartly dressed talkers and posers, but few able to produce positively. It would return the game to the spiral of mediocrity that beset its progress before the fillip of hosting the 2010 World Cup


The players on the field at Mbombela Stadium today face a massive responsibility to produce a winning performance and keep up the momentum of the past few years.

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