Where to for Bafana?

2015-01-29 00:00

BAFANA Bafana really performed like a second-hand car at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

Well, that is if one can use the word “perform” in the same sentence with Bafana Bafana and what transpired at the tournament.

The national team promised so much and yet delivered very little. They promised from the way they played in the qualifiers — finishing without a loss — and continued to show a lot of improvement even in the warm-up matches leading to the tournament.

But alas, they failed where it mattered the most.

Despite the way they played, two aspects of the game proved to be their downfall:

One, they failed to retain or build on their lead after scoring first in all their three games.

Two, they failed to convert the many chances they created.

But, isn’t this the story of South African football?

It all seems like déjà vu.

The question should be: Where to now for Bafana Bafana?

However, I think the answer to this question must not just be limited to Bafana Bafana, but South African soccer in its entirety.

There must be no more use of tired clichés such as we are still learning, building or that we have learned from our mistakes. As somebody put it this week, we don’t need learners but winners.

This has been the song since the country was accepted back into international football way back in 1992.

At least, for now, the South African Football Association (Safa) seem to have overcome the first hurdle, of our national teams failing to qualify for international tournaments.

Banyana Banyana made it to the Caf African Women’s Championships held in Namibia late last year.

Bafana qualified for the Afcon, for the first time since the 2008 version held in Ghana.

The SA U17 national team — Amajita — have made it for the 2015 African U17 Championships that starts in Niger on February 15 and finishes on March 1.

The SA U20 are through to the 2015 African U20 Championships to be staged in Senegal from March 8 to 22.

The question is: will any of these teams cross the threshold between continental and global events?

Just the other day, a jubilant U20 squad returned from Russia with the Commonwealth Cup. This was no mean feat, ­having defeated the hosts 2-0 along the way before dismissing Finland 2-1 in a hard-fought final.

What is needed now is an honest debate as well as a proper introspection by those in charge of our football on how to improve on the current situation.

The country needs to build national teams with a mental strength that is strong enough to carry them through tough international competitions.

Bafana’s early exit from Afcon has created a lot of debate. But unfortunately, except for people throwing mud at each other and even comparing Bafana to rugby and cricket national teams, I haven’t seen any argument on the way forward.

As a nation, we will always have differences and preferences, but it would help if we came with solutions where there are problems.

My take is that as a nation — led by Safa — we need to come up with a solution that would help build on the foundation of qualifying that has already been laid.

For years, I have argued that with the facilities this country has, qualification for Afcon and even the World Cup should not be debatable, but a given.

It was such an anomaly in the past that South Africa failed to be one of the 16 nations taking part in Afcon and also failed to become one of the five that represent the continent at the world showpiece.

Now that a step has been taken by managing to qualify, it is time we borrow from American astronaut Neil Armstrong who on landing on the Moon said: “That’s one step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The question is: How does South African football take that giant leap?

• 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 well over 20 years. He is currently City Press sports editor.

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