What We Have Learnt About Bafana
By the time you read this column, our fate as a footballing nation will have been sealed. As you read this, my fellow scribes and editors around the country will either have already penned their ‘obituary’ columns for our ‘death’ in the tournament, no doubt with reference to the fact that the so called ‘Group of Death’ has struck again, or there will be massive joy, happiness and relief about the fact that we somehow dodged the elimination bullet through the stars aligning and the numbers and various permutations needed for advancing in this tournament all going our way.
Unfortunately, due to the Soccer Laduma print deadline, we were not able to cover the Bafana game last night in this edition, so make sure you head to www.soccerladuma.co.za to get all your post-match reactions and stories surrounding the aftermath of last night’s games, and know that we will be getting the interviews that count from Bafana in our next edition. I promise you that we did our best to get a later printing slot to cover the Bafana game for you, but it would have meant that, for most of you, you would have only been able to get your Soccer Laduma on Thursday this week, and as a company we took the decision to ensure that Wednesday remains your #SoccerLadumaDay.
I tweeted first thing on Tuesday morning, asking you guys whether you thought Bafana had a chance. Here are some of your responses, so you can check if you got it right or wrong. I must say that the overwhelming feeling was that Bafana would be on their way home.
- lungelo biyela @Dynasty_lungsta: @SoccaClint soccer gods have been turning a blind eye on us for a while now
- Philani ndaba edumbe @sqenqe: @SoccaClint exit, out, over, #BafanaBafana
- Demon Galifianakis @De_Imperial: @SoccaClint we’re on our way out. I’ve accepted that as a fact.
- New year, Old me @LuChero_Gt: @SoccaClint Enroute OR Tambo, when r they landing?
- WinCent MaleMoon @IamVinceMale: @SoccaClint exit! 0 wins, 1 point, 2 goals and 3 Keepers
- HONORABLE•JENTO @Mokoena_TK: @SoccaClint we will be waiting for them at O.R tambo tomoro
- Teboho Mashiyane @IamIceSA: @SoccaClint we have to be realistic here, we score an average of 1 goal and concede an average of 2 goals we already out
- THE LAST SAMURAI @XolaniMvulana: @SoccaClint I think everyone pretty much knows what will happen. We’ve seen this movie before.
- Abednego Salmane @salmanea: @SoccaClint The soccer gods will hear our prayers and next round here we come.
- Siya ™ @SiyaMthombothi: Definately going through.
- Gift @GIFT_theman: @SoccaClint no matter what we going through I trust the boys.
Whether we have won or lost, whether we are on a flight back home licking our wounds and regrouping, or celebrating advancing and planning for a second round game, what have we learnt about this Bafana under Bra Shakes?
For starters, what’s clear is that public opinion when it comes to Bafana and the head coach can turn in an instant. Going into the tournament, Shakes was hailed as a genius after going twelve games unbeaten. In the blink of an eye, we were the Bafana who had not won a game in our group, who had suffered the biggest defeat in the first round, who had a goalkeeper crisis and who couldn’t score goals.
The coach’s choice of captaincy was questioned, the tactics were questioned and team selection was questioned. The bottom had seemingly fallen out very quickly. What’s clear is that no matter if there is a mandate to win or not, the mandate from the South African people will always be one of excellence with the expectation always being that we must win. Any coach that takes on the job of leading Bafana will automatically enter into the unspoken, unwritten gentleman’s agreement that winning is the only thing that will be tolerated.
What of our team? Well, unlike most African countries at this tournament, Bafana are one of the few who have no recognisable superstar players… no big names from Europe’s big leagues. For a country that considers itself one of the best in the international sporting arena, we have relative unknowns doing the business for us. From a style point of view, we have shown, however, that names don’t matter. We took Algeria, the top team in Africa, to the cleaners at times with our natural, short-passing game. We were a joy to watch and we were effective. But once again our shortcoming was our inability to finish and our naivety in defence. We still have no answer to playing against bigger, more physical teams and our confidence in our own ability seems to wane in the face of adversity.
We don’t back ourselves, we surprise ourselves, and other teams in Africa and the world pick up on that. Yes, when our tails are up with the crowd applauding our every touch and we are ahead on the scoreboard, we look like world-beaters, but we need to be able to produce that no matter the circumstance on the pitch or on the scoreboard. It’s a trait all world-class teams exhibit both at club and international level. It’s a facet missing from our armoury.
That said, there are some positives to be drawn. The fact that some of our best players are not at this tournament is a huge win for us. Shakes Mashaba has, all of a sudden, created a great deal of depth in the Bafana squad by giving new players a chance, and this can only augur well for our future. Talking about the future, let’s not forget that our U20 Amajita team have just been crowned Commonwealth Cup champions in Russia, and never before has the future of South African soccer looked so bright.