15 June 2023 – The mood in the Bafana Bafana camp this week has been bitter-sweet as the players reflect on late former South African senior national team coach Clive Barker, while at the same time continuing to keep an eye on their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Morocco at FNB Stadium on Saturday (17 June 2023). 

The 78-year-old Barker, who led Bafana Bafana to the Africa Cup of Nations title in 1996, and also spearheaded the country’s first appearance at the FIFA World Cup in France in 1998, passed away on Saturday (10 June 2023).

Camp started with the players, the technical team and staff all huddled together in a sombre moment of silence, paying tribute to the only man to lead South Africa to the  AFCON title.

Looking back to his relationship with Barker, Bafana Bafana assistant coach Helman Mkhalele took a trip down memory lane and he said in retrospect, the much-loved coach believed more in his abilities than Mkhalele did in himself.

“You know, the funny thing is to this day I do not think that coach Barker could whistle  because when I was on the ball the fans used to whistle, and it got me going. But in the background somewhere I could hear coach Clive saying ‘Helllllmaaaannnn take him on, take him on or, paaaace Helman, paaaaace. I don’t think the coach could whistle,” chuckled Mkhalele as he reminisced about the man he referred to as Hell Fire.

Mkhalele said it is with great sadness that the goodbyes are said, but the memories left behind live strong. “He was a gentle character, referred to as ‘The Dog’ because of his surname, but so far from the truth in the comparison.

“He believed in the players, he was a sounding board, he could spill the truth in the kindest of ways and make you understand a decision that was taken against your favour. He made me believe in my abilities and left an indelible mark on my life as a player, and now that I’m a coach, there is so much I take with me that I’ve adopted from him. I will always go back to the way he made me feel, and not so much on what he said.

“He always treated me as an individual, as a human, with respect and saw me for who I was and not what he wanted me to be. I grieve, but feel so blessed to have worked with him, to have celebrated success with him and to call him, my friend, brother, father and mentor.”

Rest in peace, Coach Clive Barker.