The Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, has wished the National Soccer Team, Bafana Bafana, well ahead of the upcoming Orange CAF African Nations Championship (CHAN) tournament to be staged in South Africa starting Saturday, January 11.
He made a visit to the squad's base camp in Cape Town yesterday (January 7), to offer words of encouragement before the tournament is set to roll underway at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Bafana Bafana will be up against the Mambas of Mozambique for their opening Group A fixture, followed by Mali on the 15th and will then round-off the group stages with a clash against African champions, Nigeria.
In a statement on the SAFA website, Mbalula said, “If you go with the mentality that teams have not sent strong players here you are going to be surprised by Mozambique. They will want to come here and embarrass you,” said Minister Mbalula.
"And you don’t want to appear as people who did not give their all and did not want to represent their country. I thought I needed to emphasise that point that we have pride in you, and we are confident that all of you will make this country of ours proud. Rewards come at the end, not at the beginning.”
The Minister also emphasised the importance of the competition and how it can build strength within the national team going forward.
“Anyone who says this competition is not serious is making a big mistake and misleading the country. This competition is taking place in South Africa and is a very important competition. All the 16 teams that are coming here have not been invited or co-opted or asked by CAF to come here, they had to compete to get here. They earned their right to be in South Africa with us. It is time for the people of SA to have pride,” added Minister Mbalula.
"You are going to compete with the best on the African continent. This is our path and journey to glory. It starts with CHAN, and we are expected to win and we have to do it for SA and do it for Nelson Mandela because it is in honour that today we are able to host competitions of this order, it is in honour that we have pride, and we are expected to perform," the minister concluded.
Bafana Bafana skipper, Itumeleng Khune, also took the time to thank the minister's visit and said his colleagues were positive about the road ahead.
“We are going to go out there with the knowledge that we have your support and the country’s. As players we need to inform you that we are taking this tournament very seriously and will do our best to ensure great results,” said Khune.
Follow us on Twitter: @Soccer_Laduma