Expert opinion

Bafana should be an oasis of excellence

S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)

Since taking over at Bafana Bafana and starting with a bang, Stuart Baxter now has a record that reads: won 4, lost 2.

The two losses are a direct result of unnecessary tinkering with the national team which comes as a result of a rotten attitude within the South African football fraternity.

Baxter started on a very high note, beating South Africa’s nemesis, Nigeria, in their own backyard in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

The 2-0 victory was achieved with aplomb and all who watched that match were in unison that it did indeed spell a new dawn and a new era.

However, what has followed since then has left yours truly less convinced that we are on the golden path and that not much has actually changed.

It was only when Bafana were away in Nigeria that we learned that a friendly match against Zambia had been scheduled for the Tuesday after that Saturday match.

A few players registered their concerns about having to play a friendly after such extensive travel. Worse still, the match was to be played out in Rustenburg - meaning a long travel by road - after landing at the OR Tambo International Airport following the long flight back from Nigeria.

Even Baxter hinted at the ill-timing of the match, giving an indication that there was no proper communication between the South African Football Association (SAFA) and the national coach.

Baxter had to field a second string team that bore very little resemblance to the one that downed the mighty Nigeria.

And to many it came as no surprise when that team lost.

Then came the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) tournament which Bafana entered at the quarter-final stage as a seeded team.

Again, Baxter had to come up with a different team that was now termed the “B Team”.

They lost to Tanzania and then had to contend with the second tier of the tournament called The Plate where they beat Namibia and Botswana to finish fifth. The so-called Bafana where Baxter dished out 15 new caps managed a mere three goals in the three matches they played. You be the judge if those are good returns for a national team.

I am heavily opposed to unnecessary tinkering with the team.

My take is that as the senior men’s national team Bafana Bafana is the cream of South African football and the jewel in the SAFA crown.

We need to field the strongest team in every tournament or even a friendly match that the country takes part in and the team is called Bafana Bafana.

As far as I am concerned, there is nothing like a national “B Team”. If that was the case, there would be no need for the under-23 national - or Olympic team.

There are set age groups through which players graduate until they reach Bafana Bafana - these are the under-17, -20 and -23 and there should be nothing between the under-23s and Bafana Bafana.

The Olympic team should be the real feeder team for the senior national team. If we stray from that, we will continue to refer to our players as “youngsters” even long after they are past that stage.

It should only be for tournaments such as the CHAN Cup - African Nations Championships - in which CAF prescribes that all players must be from the domestic leagues.

We also need to do away with this mentality that our players get fatigued as we play far less matches than top European leagues.

We’ve just seen the cream of the crop take part in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia that was played in the off-season.

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 over 30 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

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