Belief will win you silverware, not hope or faith  

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Fans of South Africa cheer for their team prior to the 2019 FIFA Womens World Cup in France. Picture: Alex Grimm/Getty Images
Fans of South Africa cheer for their team prior to the 2019 FIFA Womens World Cup in France. Picture: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Much like a vote of no confidence, there’s a distinct feeling that South Africans deem national teams unfit for the pitch, writes Muhammad Hussain.

Belief is a funny thing – it’s not like faith or hope. One is a long-term deal, while the other is more of a hand-to-mouth thing.

Belief, by the dictionary definition, is “a feeling of certainty that something exists, is true, or is good”.

In sporting terms, this belief translates into a feeling of certainty that, when your team steps out on to the playing surface, you will win, even if the odds are against your team.

When Liverpool took on any team at Anfield this past season during the European competition, there was belief. When the Toronto Raptors played in the NBA finals, there was belief. When Tiger Woods played the final day of the Masters this year, there was belief. After Bafana Bafana's first half against Egypt last night, there was belief. 

When the Proteas left for England, there was hope. When Banyana Banyana left for France, there was faith.

It’s easy to dismiss the two as similar words and feelings, but context is important when trying to navigate a way in the desert that is South Africa’s trophyless national cabinet.

This was Banyana’s first World Cup. They qualified through much hard work, stellar performances at the Women’s Afcon and a talented squad. Their preparation for the World Cup was littered with losses and an avalanche of goals against the team, yet there was still a sense of faith that this team, under the stewardship of Desiree Ellis, would make the nation proud.

They did not disappoint.

Yes, they lost their first three games and, yes, they only scored once, but my, what a spectacle it was. Their play over the 270-odd minutes at the grandest stage of them all was a showing of fight, struggle and moments of brilliance.

The way they defended produced a few errors because they were doing it for most of the time on field, and the speed of their attacks were dangerous without being potent, but sometimes hope and faith can be broken by a single referee’s call, a missed tackle or even a missed kick at goal.

At the end of the day, the first Banyana Banyana World Cup squad showed courage and determination. And, to be honest, with the financial “muscle” they have backing them, it certainly was above and beyond their national duty.

By contrast, the hope placed in the Proteas to do well at their eighth World Cup was like a glass window on a Sunday afternoon glinting towards the street as the kids in the neighbourhood try to emulate their heroes and inevitably misjudge a shot that sends a taped-up tennis ball crashing through the sun-tapped window.

At the first sign of negative significance, the country’s mood could – and did – change because everything leading up to that moment was built on a flimsy hope that Dale Steyn would be fit, hope that Hashim Amla would score runs, and hope that the demons of World Cups past would not come back to haunt the Proteas.

South Africa became the second team to be eliminated from the Cricket World Cup (even in losses, we come second-best, sigh) before any team had even secured a spot in the semifinals.

All those hopes shattered with a clang, not much different to a Jofra Archer short-pitched delivery hitting the metallic grille of a batsman’s helmet. Shocked, dazed and confused – Led Zeppelin would be so proud.

To be fair to our other national sides, Bafana Bafana at least qualified for the round of 16 (on hope and luck) at the Afcon, the Springboks are ramping up preparations for the Rugby World Cup and the netball Proteas retained their fifth-position ranking going into the Netball World Cup, which starts on Friday.

But ask yourself this when there’s a lull in life’s proceedings or when your mind drifts to sports or when you feel the fear of missing out on patriotism: Do you have belief that any of those national teams will win silverware at these tournaments?

Faith and hope will not win you world cups or fill your desert with an oasis of trophies, but belief will. And, right now, belief in South Africa’s national teams is as rare as God’s image on Earth.

*Note:

For your reference, here’s the dictionary definition of faith: “If you have faith in someone or something, you feel confident about their ability or goodness.”

Hope: “If you hope that something is true, or if you hope for something, you want it to be true or to happen, and you usually believe that it is possible or likely.”

Definitions taken from collinsdictionary.com

Author's note: To answer my own question, I do not have belief that Bafana will win the Afcon, but after what I witnessed last night I most certainly believe that they will not disapoint us - as history bares testament. 

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