AFCON: Great to watch as hosts

Sibongile Mafu

The Africa Cup of Nations 2013 is over, and the Super Eagles are the kings of the continent. A really great tournament which South Africa decided to host with only two years to prepare, and one which I'm proud we were able to successfully. And as we've become used to with these tournaments, for most of it we stood on the sidelines yet again, as we threw a great party and cheered others on.

I always liken South Africa to a 1950s type of housewife, similar to Bree van der Kamp from Desperate Housewives. She throws wonderful, well-catered events for the world, making sure everyone enjoys themselves, even though there’s quite a bit of turmoil within her own home. We are a picture from the outside. Our dress and apron perfectly pressed, our hair beautifully coiffured, and our lawns (Red Hot Chilli Peppers concerts aside) freshly mowed.

We throw great parties, and for the most part we show up, until the quarter-final stage at least. But what happens when all of that is over and the money has been spent? We pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, and bump ourselves further up the “great host countries” list? For the month that the party happens, we’re on top on the world, but my, how quickly that feeling disappears once the streamers and ribbons have been swept up.

Mr Party himself, our Sports Minister Fikile Mabula is the head of the social club. Always at the forefront, reassuring South Africans about the great job we’re doing. Always hailing, lauding and applauding. We seem to always be the winner… at hosting tournaments. I’m a little fatigued. I was 8 years old when Bafana Bafana was crowned AFCON champions in 1996. I don’t remember a thing. All I’m really familiar with is Bafana Bafana not making it very far.

I also remember being incredibly bitter when it was announced that Cape Town would not be hosting a single AFCON game. I grew up in Port Elizabeth, I’m familiar with being left off the guest list, but now having moved to Cape Town, this was happening? AFCON began and I admit, my thoughts weren’t Proudly South African at all, hurling abuse at Bafana Bafana, being sure they wouldn’t make it past the first round and later being impressed that they showed up and wanted to make an impression. They battled hard, perhaps showing the resilience our country is known for, and losing it at the very end against Mali.

AFCON ended for me then, and I had to go back to the real world. A world where Bafana Bafana were Bafana Bafana again and knocked out of another tournament, and we had to pick another team to support. Again, watching a party happen in our backyard, and being made to watch through the curtain of our home.

I understand. This is how sport goes. Someone has to be knocked out, and as Mbalula so articulately put it: “there could only be one winner,” but it doesn’t lessen the disappointment. I’ve been called a fair-weathered fan, which is probably an accurate assessment, but I also believe in the power of reality checks. We know how to host; we now need to learn how to win on the field. We have great infrastructure to display matches, now we need to check the developmental infrastructure that moulds winners and champions.

All we can do now is look forward to hopefully qualifying for Brazil 2014, and if not, at least be called upon to host in the last second, so we can qualify and compete.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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