Bafana Bafana

SAFA's 'Vision 2022' a blurred one

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Bafana Bafana. (Gallo Images)
Bafana Bafana. (Gallo Images)

In 2014 an under-pressure SAFA released what was termed their "Vision 2022" blueprint that was supposedly designed to provide a step-by-step improvement in the fortunes of South African soccer - specifically the flagship Bafana Bafana - over the coming period of eight years, with the ultimate objective of reaching the quarter-final or better stage of the World Cup in Qatar next year.

But, thus far, going into the final bend of the make-believe SAFA proposition with a critical succession of do-or-die Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifying games due to get underway against Ghana next week at Soccer City, "Vision 2022" has emerged as little more than a blurred vision for Bafana.

Failing to qualify for the World Cup Finals in Brazil in 2014 after only reaching the final stage once since 2002 - and then only by way of being the host nation in 2010 and setting the unenviable record of being the first and only host nation to be eliminated in the first round, the magical, but seemingly over-optimistic "Vision 2022" asserted with assurance that Bafana would not only make it to Russia in 2018, but also progress beyond the first round for the first time.

So what happened? Bafana did not make it to Russia, let alone the second round and irate fans were suggesting that "Vision 2022" belonged on the scrap heap and should be sent to Siberia.

Bafana's performances in the CAF Nations Cup also underwent a mainly downward slide during this period without reaching a designated semi-final, although for one brief moment in the 2019 event in Egypt it seemed "Vision 2022" had indeed pulled a rabbit out of the hat after several indifferent South African displays with a shock victory over the host nation and tournament favourites before elimination at the quarter-final stage.

As for world and continental rankings, "Vision 2022" has decreed that without fail South Africa must progress steadily from a ranking around the 70s to again feature among the top 20 in the world come 2022, a status it had reached for a brief period at the turn of the century, with a ranking among the top five in Africa also essential after lingering for some time around 15th.

So where do we stand now? Bafana are still around 70 in the world and round about 15th in Africa. Not much progress over seven years, it can be conceded.

And so what will the final year of "Vision 2022" provide to live up to its expectations in some way or other? It's an awesome undertaking even to reach the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations Finals, let alone talk of reaching quarter-finals and semi-finals.

Going into the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ghana's "Black Stars" at Soccer City, Bafana are well-positioned to finish at least second in their qualifying group that will take them into the Finals in Cameroon early next year.

World Cup Final qualification will be infinitely more difficult. South Africa will need initially to win a qualifying group that includes the self-same Ghana, whose record in reaching World Cup Finals among the African nations is second to none, and then go on to beat one of the other 10 group qualifying winners in a sudden death home-and-away contest to earn one of the places allotted to Africa in Qatar.

As to "Vision 2022", it would seem more appropriate to plan for today and tomorrow and eight years' time will look after itself.

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