Bafana Equatorial Guinea-bound

Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)

I find it ironic that on the occasion where Bafana Bafana seem set to qualify for the 30th Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), there is uncertainty about the tournament.

The uncertainty stems from the fact that Morocco who were scheduled to host Africa's biennial shindig from January 17 to February 8, have said "thanks, but no thanks" due to the Ebola epidemic.

The Issa Hayatou-led Confederation of African football (CAF) spent this week running helter skelter in search of an alternative host before eventually announcing Equatorial Guinea as a replacement.

They also insisted that the tournament will still go ahead on the originally scheduled dates in the four cities of Ebebiyin, Mongomo, Malabo and Bata.

The irony is in that should Bafana Bafana - the South African senior men's football team - beat Sudan in Durban on Saturday, they will make the cut to be one of the 16 nations at the finals.

As any soccer follower can attest, it has been quite some time since our boys qualified for this tournament or any other for that matter.

We only participated in the last one only because we hosted it which was the case with the Soccer World Cup in 2010.

One has to go back to 2008 for the last time Bafana Bafana qualified for the AFCON and as far back as 2002 for the last time they made the grade for the World Cup.

So it is indeed quite ironic that just when they are on the verge of qualification, such uncertainty arises.

However my advice to Shakes Mashaba and the team would be that they must follow one of the golden rules of sport: Never take their eyes off the ball.

They must stick and concentrate to the task at hand.

Much as it has become some sort of a cliché already, they must do it for Senzo Meyiwa - the departed goalkeeper and captain - as well as the country.

For Mashaba, this is also a chance to tick one of the boxes that remains since he took over, a win at home.

Despite playing good football and winning twice away from home, Mashaba's charges are still to register a victory in front of their faithful supporters following goalless stalemates against Nigeria and Congo-Brazzaville.

So they owe it to the nation to put this one in the bag. A victory in this match will also ease the pressure ahead of their ultimate outing away to Nigeria next week.

The nation is also tired of always having to rely on calculators to work out the permutations that would see Bafana Bafana qualify. It is indeed high time that the players took their fate into their own hands and not rely on other results.

This match will prove whether Mashaba has started to inculcate that culture.

May Mahlangu's issue - the player who asked to be excused from national duty and was duly banned from all future international participation by the South African Football Association (SAFA) - is an administrative and  political one. Players need not even involve themselves.

However, I can tell you now, we have not heard the last of this matter. In fact, this is only the beginning if rumblings that SAFA was too hasty in taking that decision with no proper consultation or due processes as well as words from Mahlangu's business manager Rob Moore is anything to go by.

All I can say is, watch this space.

To Bafana Bafana, good luck on Saturday.

What do you think will be the outcome of Saturday's match against Sudan?

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.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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