11 April 2019 – For some time now South Africans have had this developing sense of restlessness and disappointment due to the performance of their beloved senior men’s national team Bafana Bafana.
This restlessness comes from the fact that South Africans as a nation passionately believe that their national team, should at all times qualify for continental and international competitions, taking into consideration the talent we have, the size of our country, the quality of our professional soccer league, as well as the resources at our disposal. But sometimes the football Gods have a different plan.
We all remember how we failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2010, 2012, we then qualified as hosts in 2013 and rightfully qualified in 2015, only to later fail to qualify in the 2017 edition of AFCON. With the constant reminder of failing to qualify for the last AFCON showpiece in Gabon, the 2019 qualifiers would definitely bring about pressure for the head coach as well as the players.
Being drawn in the same group with the Nigerian Super Eagles, Seychelles as well as the boys from Tripoli Libya, Bafana would dare not take any of their opposition seriously, especially Nigeria and Libya. The first game came against our biggest rival, as if that was not enough, it was an away game played at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo.
With many hoping for a draw, of which would be a very fair result for Bafana Bafana, Stuart Baxterʼs men proved not to be taken lightly. With goals from on-form Percy Tau as well as Tokelo Rantie, the super eagles were stunned, at home even. Although our next games included a goalless draw at home against Libya, a 6-0 trashing win against Seychelles and a disappointing 0-0 draw against the very same Seychelles, Bafana Bafana would have to pick up their socks in order to keep the dream of qualifying for AFCON alive.
Playing a 1-1 draw at home against the Super Eagles, it was all up to the final game away from home to Libya. With only a draw needed to see us through, Stuart Baxterʼs players knew theyʼd have their work cut out for them.
The game against Libya was of utmost importance for the entire country, which saw a stellar performance from our goalkeeper Daren Keet and two beautiful goals from Percy Tau, in what would be a 2-1 win ushering us into Cairo.
The last time Bafana Bafana won the competition was in 1996 as hosts under Clive Barker and later went on to finish second in the heartbreaking 1998 finals, losing 2-0 to Egypt. Itʼs no lie that South Africans are yearning for silverware as well as being the champions of Africa again after 23 years, the current crop of players will have to defy all odds and write their names in the history books of South African football.
Although we qualified without losing a match, conceded the least number of goals in our group, as well as beating Nigeria at home. Bafana Bafana know they’ll have to perform even better to taste glory in Egypt. But judging from their recent performance, the players seem patriotic, disciplined, eager and hungry for success, as they defy all odds and head to Egypt with the aim of not merely adding numbers, but being worthy opponents and being great competitors.
Article by Modibe Modiba