Bafana Must Just Qualify
A lot has been made about Bafana Bafana’s lacklustre goalless draw performance against Libya this past weekend, a game Bafana had no business drawing.
It is beyond comprehension that some are surprised when people vent their frustrations by the poor results of our national team. It is equally baffling that we continue to expect the best from our national team that has continued to disappoint.
In fact, it was two points dropped rather than a point gained against The Tuareg, as the North African national side is affectionately known. There is a plethora of reasons why Bafana should have never failed to win this game. First of all, as of August 16, we’re ranked 27 places higher than Libya in the FIFA rankings, with Bafana sitting 74th while Libya will be found in the 101st place. Yes, rankings count for almost nothing when it is 11 v 11 on the field of play, as it is more about who wants it the most. Much as I’m embarrassed to admit it, the rankings looked to be the other way around on Saturday night. Libya looked more at home than our team and, despite the few chances we created, if it was not for Itumeleng Khune’s excellent goalkeeping, it could have been worse than a draw for us.
Why the game was taken to Durban when Libya is situated on the boarders of the Mediterranean Sea – therefore making them a sea-level team – boggles the mind. In this game, especially in two-legged affairs like the qualifiers, the devil is always in the details. How you plan and prepare for the game is of critical importance. Instead of taking the game to Limpopo, Gauteng or any other inland province would have put us at an advantageous position rather than being self-destructive in an attempt to make the visitors more comfortable. We dismally failed to capitalise on our home ground advantage and the points lost could come back to haunt us.
If we are to harbour any chances of making it back to the FIFA World Cup and regain our glory days as one of the best in the African continent, teams like Libya have no right to stand in our way, unless we’re not as good as we think. South African football supporters can’t still be holding on for dear life to the successful 1996 AFCON championship more than 20 years later. With everything we have, there’s no excuse for the dismal performances we’ve witnessed over the years. The decline from the new millennium era is alarming, but it seems like life goes on. We can’t even beat a team that was affected by an ongoing civil war and have to play all their games away from home for security reasons. Since 2017, Libya have now only won five of their 20 international matches across all competitions, with five losses and 10 draws. Surely Bafana can’t be huffing and puffing against a team boasting such statistics and we should have known that the best result for Libya would be a draw.
Despite the disappointing result, one has to applaud Libya, who have not used their circumstances as an excuse. They brave the political instability and continue to represent their country with pride. They leave everything on the field, under difficult circumstances, and look like the football field is the only place where they find peace and tranquillity.
Their coach, Adel Amrouche, charmed his way into South Africans’ hearts because of his honest answers and the refreshing attitude of playing not to lose. The 50-year-old former midfielder is a fan of skill and wants to see players doing it the African way. He wants to see African players express themselves, playing to their strength – with a lot of skill and flair in order to entertain the paying supporters. The man’s passion for African football is written all over him.
Our head coach, Stuart Baxter, on the other hand, spent a lot of time at loggerheads with the media about, firstly, bringing his son, Lee, to replace legendary Andre Arendse, who is said to have pulled out of the team a few days before the game, for family reasons. Then there was a reported use of the phrase, “… don’t know football” attributed to the Wolverhampton-born Briton mentor for those who questioned his decisions, although he’s on record denying ever uttering those words. The two took the attention away from the importance of the game.
What has become clear is that a lot of our energy is spent on unnecessary debates and discussions when we should be forging the way forward to improve our game. I don’t care who is in charge of our team. All that matters to me is that Bafana must just qualify for the 2019 African Nations Cup and also book a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. That’s the most important thing for us now because we’ve tolerated mediocrity for far too long. We have to change what we must and get our house in order, sooner rather than later. We just can’t sink lower than we have in recent years, where even qualifying for AFCON has become an impossible mission. It’s a ridiculous state of affairs for a country like South Africa, a country the rest of the continent see as the ‘overseas’ because of the rich infrastructure at our disposal.
We can’t continue being a laughing stock of the rest of the continent anymore. Bafana have to bring better results in the remaining qualifiers and bring new life to our wonderful team.