Have you ever heard a song sung by a singer with a great voice and when you hear it, you think, ‘Great voice.’ Then you hear that same song sung by another singer, not with just his voice, but with his entire soul, with his heart, from the depths of his being. I’m not afraid to say that when I listen to, or when I watch singers who sing in that way, I’m often moved. I sometimes even get teary-eyed, simply because I connect, and not really with the song, but more with the singer.
Where am I going with this? Well, despite what people are saying, I think we have some very talented footballers. Maybe not the best in the world, but we can certainly play. I think that while some may debate what exactly is our best eleven, I would say that any eleven from the current Bafana squad who walk onto the field, can do a job.
Watching Bafana go through the motions on Saturday, I felt nothing. I wasn’t moved. I didn’t feel like they were a South African team. They were playing soccer, yes, but they could have been any team from anywhere in the world. Nothing they did or the way they did it resonated with me. Nothing pulled me from my chair, forced me to jump up or laugh with joy at the sight of something South African. All I saw were 11 proficient professionals looking to get through 90 minutes – an exercise in damage control if you will.
But let’s go back a bit, to before they walked on to the field. When I saw the Bafana bus arrive at the stadium and the scenes of our lads singing, clapping and moving in unison, that was South African. That did stir something inside. However, when those same players crossed that white line and walked onto the pitch, there was none of that.
You see, every time a Bafana team walks out onto the field, we bristle with anticipation because we know what we are capable of doing. Our imaginations, our hearts, our souls are waiting to see ‘us’ mirrored in ‘you’. We dance, we sing, we laugh, we’re not afraid to express ourselves, but you gave us nothing. You may as well have pulled England shirts on as time and again you booted the ball up the field into channels and asked Lehlohonolo (Majoro) to hold it up, or Thuso (Phala) to chase it.
You gave us no opportunity to roar with satisfaction at the sight of a disguised pass. No opportunity to laugh as you sent an opponent the wrong way with a ‘tsamaya’ or ‘spy-two’ to make us stand up and cheer. Yes, you kicked a ball around the field for 90 minutes, but you didn’t play like South Africans. You hid the personality of South African football, you resisted the soul of Mzansi and you did nothing to honour the memory of those legends and entertainers that have come before you.
Despite what many coaches say, if football was truly just about results, stadiums would be empty. We’d stay home and simply buy the papers to look at the results column each week. But we come to the stadiums, we turn on our TVs and we listen to our radios because we want to be there for that moment when you send an entire stadium the wrong way with the feint of your body and get a country to jump out of their seats in awe. When you’re at your best, we’re on our feet singing and dancing. Screaming and clapping, laughing, even crying in awe. Fascinated by your every touch, and triumphant in the knowledge that your opponents are backing off as none of them want to be the victim of a stadium erupting with joy as you make them look silly.
Now, to do this, you’re going to have to be brave. You’re going to have to trust yourselves a little more, act on what you feel is right in the moment, rather than on what the coaching manual says is right. Yes, you’re all top professionals who adhere to instructions, but trust where you came from and what made you fall in love with the game. Find yourselves, because that’s where you’ll find us. And guys, when you lift us, we will lift you.