Bafana Didn’t Show Up!
What’s left to say about Bafana Bafana’s torturous performances at the 2019 Afcon in Egypt? What has not been said already about our national team? What is new and, more importantly, what’s going to change going forward?
These are some of the questions that came to mind as one was pondering South Africa’s performance in the continental biennial tournament. The 1-0 loss to Morocco on Monday night effectively meant Bafana had to depend on other results to make it past the group stages, as one of the four best third place finishers. To say Bafana got what they deserve so far would be an understatement. Coach Stuart Baxter’s team looked completely out of sorts. They didn’t seem to know whether they were coming or going, as they huffed and puffed throughout the three group games, with Cape Town City’s Thamsanqa Mkhize as a standout and consistent performer.
This has been a far cry from the Bafana team that showed a lot of character, guts, hunger, determination, big heart and resilience against Libya under very trying and hostile circumstances, in the last game of the qualifiers. This timid-looking Bafana team has been a shadow of the team that went into the tournament having not lost a single game in over a year. What we’ve witnessed so far has been a team that looks like it was put together a week before departing for Egypt. They’ve been lethargic to say the least and one wonders what really happened to Bafana? Maybe this dismal performance is what we need and deserve in order to wake up from this slumber and smell the coffee.
Bafana simply didn’t show up and failing to progress to the knockout stages would be a true reflection of our team’s performances. They didn’t do enough to prove that they want to go further in the competition. Few attacks in all games played, with only one goal in three games, was always going to be a recipe for disaster. Now South Africans have their calculators out, crossing their fingers because the team lost control of their own destiny. Their fate will now be decided by others.
Assuming that things go right for Bafana and they make it to the knockout stages, do you think there’s anything we’ve not seen that they can show us? Can our boys improve in the knockout stages? I seriously doubt it, but football is a strange game. Coach Baxter had a lot to say about the negative comments made by the general public even before Bafana boarded their flight to Egypt. After watching his team play so hopelessly, I wonder if the Briton still feels people are being unfair towards his charges and himself.
What’s the way forward? Bafana’s troubles have been plastered over the years. The day we start to take continental football seriously will be the beginning of a long road to rediscover ourselves. When we have more teams taking the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup tournaments seriously, we will then get our players exposed to continental football and therefore be able to hold our own against anyone. There’s no short-cut solution to this one and it is an open secret that the more we play continental football, the better our national team will get. Currently, we have Mamelodi Sundowns who have been campaigning in the continent consistently for the past four years and you need to look no further than their domestic league dominance to see the rewards of taking continental football seriously.
Speaking of Sundowns, when you have some of the most important players in the team’s continental success at your disposal, shouldn’t logic dictate that you make more use of them since they’re already equipped to withstand the challenges that come with playing against the powerhouses of African football? You have a coach like Pitso Mosimane who is held in high regard in the continent and you make no use of his expertise and share knowledge with him? His captain, Hlompho Kekana, is reduced to a bench-warmer despite everything he’s achieved in the continent and his wealth of knowledge of every blade of grass on the Egyptian fields, the atmosphere and the daunting task of holding your own against them? Surely, if we are to do well, we need to work together and put pride aside. Every coach has their own way of doing things, but there’s no doubt in my mind that coach Mosimane would jump at an opportunity to share his wisdom and knowledge with Bafana’s technical team because, at the end of the day, it is about the national agenda. There’s no place for egos in this game and, while everyone is a master in hindsight, we need all hands on deck if we are to improve our national team.
While this won’t solve all the problems, it certainly will go a long way in assisting. But, then again, what’s new about all this? Have we not had the same conversation for more than a decade with little to nothing to show for it?