SAFA in Bafana naming fiasco

Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
I always have a good chuckle every time the debate around the Bafana Bafana name crops up.

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OK, let me declare upfront. I was one of the three journalists who came up with the name in 1992 following South Africa’s acceptance into the global football family.

The name came out of a column we penned with colleagues Molefi Mika and Sello Rabothata for the Sowetan daily newspaper. The purpose of the column was to get the nation behind the national team, which was a new concept following years on isolation.

So, it was with a little bit of trepidation that I saw the debate about the name come up again after Bafana Bafana were embarrassingly (not unusual) bundled out of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) hosted in these shores.

This sparked the debate once more and none other than the Sports Minister and the South African Football Association (SAFA) who is custodians of soccer in this country.

What I found ironic, was the fact that this was the same SAFA that not so long ago popped out R5 million (we all know they are not cash-flush) to get the name back after crying foul for years that Stanton Woodrush (the company that had the vision and insight, something that SAFA has lacked over the years) was unfairly milking the name.

Reports were that the company had made hundreds of millions from the brand during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Now SAFA has the brand and all the rights, and they want to dump it. So why did they buy the name back in the first place?

Me thinks they just don’t know what to do with the brand. We all know that SAFA’s marketing department has been non-functional for years. Actually, that is if it still exists.

So why not rope in marketing experts who will help them maximise the name and the brand just as Woodrush did for years?

This would free SAFA’s hands and allow them to concentrate on their core business and mandate - which is to develop football in this country.

I am a great believer in what William Shakespeare once wrote - A rose by any other name, smells just as sweet.

Even if Bafana Bafana had gone into CHAN being called The Lions for instance, does anyone believe that would have seen them perform better?

If the name was so weak that it was the reason the national team underperformed, then how did they win the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 1996 why still being known by the moniker Bafana Bafana?

Why was there no debate for the name to be changed then? Why does this debate only surface when the team losses.

This only goes to show that there is nothing wrong with the name it’s just people becoming over-emotional and barking up the wrong tree.

A cursory look at the top football-paying nations in the world, will show that Brazil who has won the World Cup five times, which is more than any other nation, has a national team known as  A Seleção which translates to The Selection. Now, you tell me how intimidating that is?

Italy have won the World Cup four times going under the nickname Gli Azzurri (The Blues). Sounds more like a music group to me.

Even a look at the top four-ranked countries in the world, Spain (La Roja meaning The Red One), Germany (Die Mannschaft – The Team), Argentina (La Albiceleste – The White and Sky Blue), Colombia (The Coffee Growers) and Portugal Os Nevegadores – The Navigators) and tell me where is an intimidating name there.

Do you think the last four teams that made it to the semi-finals of the 2014 African Nations Championships (CHAN), Nigeria (Super Eagles), Ghana (Black Stars), Zimbabwe (The Warriors) and Libya (The Mediterranean Knights) did so because of their sobriquets?

I don’t think so.

It is because of proper planning from their football federations and the level of development in their countries.

I think rather than worrying ourselves about changing the name Bafana Bafana, we should address the serious problems facing our football and forget about trivial issues such as the name.

In fact what this has done, is to divert the attention from the crux of the matter that our football needs fixing (excuse the pun
Leave the name Bafana Bafana alone.

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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