Hlengiwe Mnguni

Until the final whistle

2010-06-18 12:01

Getting to the second round of the World Cup is proving to be mission impossible for Bafana Bafana.

When success hinges on specific losses or victories of other teams it is plain bad, and judging from the generally less audible vuvuzela, it seems this is a scenario most South Africans had not envisioned.

In all our excitement we forgot that although we love and support Bafana, they entered the tournament at number 83 on FIFA’s world rankings. They did not play qualifying matches to get into the tournament; they qualified automatically as hosts.

Because we were swept up in World Cup fever most of us conveniently put this somewhere in the very back of our minds.

When Bafana rode through the crowded streets of Sandton in a pre-tournament parade surrounded by scenes reserved for champions, Carlos Perreira was alarmed. He criticised the mass hysteria. But most people were too far gone on “yellow hope” to take note and calm down.

So it was both disappointing and surprising to watch some fans stream out of the stadium when it became clear on Wednesday that Uruguay had beaten South Africa considering that most were South Africans who are familiar with the capabilities and limitations of the team.

It was unfair from the first to let our hopes run away with us unchecked. It was unfair of us to put that much pressure on Bafana. We assumed our successes in preparing for the tournament would somehow also unfold on the football pitch.

We have one more match to play against struggling former world champions France before our fate is decided. They, like Bafana, have a lot to prove having not won either of their first two matches. Pride is at stake for both teams with Bafana trying to avoid going down in history as the first host nation to crash out of the first round of the Cup. It may go either way. But no matter how it goes, all I ask is for all those people who will be at the game next Tuesday to just please stay in their seats until the final whistle, the flags to stay waving and the vuvuzela to stay blaring.

We have realised, painfully, that being hosts did not give Bafana super powers.  The difficulty of breaking out of the reality of their track record in competitions was underestimated. But we cannot disown them now that they have suffered a loss after going unbeaten (albeit in friendlies mostly) for months.

That would show us up as a disloyal nation that had no qualms with knowingly getting behind a team that had the odds heavily stacked against it only to ditch them as soon as the obvious came true.

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