Mark Gleeson

Tough changing Bafana name

2011-02-07 07:29
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

I have got to admit I never liked the name Bafana Bafana when it was first introduced. I thought it a bit churlish, a moniker without much distinction for our national team, who deserved a tag with more reverence.

Maybe it was professional jealousy because, if you recall, Bafana Bafana was the name given to the team by reporters at the Sowetan newspaper. Other colleagues had also tried to come up with a name but failed to produce anything catchy.

The Star newspaper, at the outset of the new national team in 1992, started calling the side the ‘Rainbow Warriors’ but it never caught on.

Over the years I have warmed to ‘Bafana Bafana’. It is catchy, playful and very different from the collection of animals, birds and insects that the rest of the footballing community uninspiringly attaches to their national teams.

The rest of the world likes the nickname too and Bafana Bafana is now a world brand.

That is the problem for the South African Football Association who have paid a heavy financial price for not registering the brand when it first became popular. Instead an arbitrary businessman went and claimed it as his own and despite many years of belated court action from SAFA, he still has the rights. This means SAFA have had to share all the revenue associated with Bafana Bafana, mainly from clothing apparel.

Now SAFA want to change the nickname and find a new one so that they have a new brand which makes them money exclusively. The public are going to be asked to provide a new nickname.

It is going to be tough to change because ‘Bafana Bafana’ is much beloved across the country and indeed across Africa. Whenever you travel throughout the continent, references to Bafana Bafana pop up all over the place, be it the name of a bar or small shop or on a tee-shirt worn by some youngster. South Africa is synonymous with the name.

It is a powerful brand that will be hard to replace by a substitute nickname that SAFA are hoping the public will come up with.

I would like to see Bafana Bafana stay. It is part of the family now, part of the country’s history.

Let SAFA rather go and negotiate themselves out the mess they made all those years ago by not being proactive.

It’s a mess they continually find themselves in by virtue of their poor planning, like the debacle around this week’s friendly international against Kenya at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

This was another example of how leaving arrangements to the last minute come back to haunt you.

In order to keep up the momentum of the World Cup, South Africa have to invite decent profile opponents to play in their friendly games. Like the Americans last November who help produced a crowd of 50 000 in Cape Town.

Kenya are no draw card but they were all that was left for the tardy SAFA administrators who had not planned a programme before. Seems they will never learn proactivity is the way of business.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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