S'Busiso Mseleku

SWC: Where is Bafana?

2014-06-13 11:06
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
As the 2014 Soccer World Cup kicks off in Brazil, it should serve as a wake-up call for the South African football fraternity.

All those involved in local football, no matter at what level, should ask themselves: Why is our beloved nation not among the 32 contesting this biggest sporting event?

Our players, most notably the young ones that still have the potential to don the Bafana Bafana jersey one day, should make a vow that they will do everything possible to one day represent the country at this global showpiece.

Besides the administrators - about whom a lot has been said and written - we need a group of players who would take the bull by the horns and say, “not in our name!”

Needless to say, the players who have represented the country lately have not shown the kind of spirit of nationalism usually displayed by people who are prepared to die for the country.

We need the character and spirit that was possessed by the group of players that have come to be known as The Class of ’96.

It was this spirit that saw Lucas Radebe - who was to rise to be the Bafana Bafana skipper - defy all odds and medical predictions that he was not going to recover in time to be fit for the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Radebe pushed himself so hard that his knee had fully healed by the time the tournament came around and he had a stellar performance in defence.

Who can forget how Mark Fish looked as if he had gone a full 12 rounds with Mike Tyson during a Bafana Bafana match in Ponte Noir where the national team was handed some of the harshest treatment in modern football.

It was the same spirit that propelled Orlando Pirates players to victory in the 1995 Africa Club Championships, now the CAF Champions League.

It was not easy. I know, I was there all the way from the start at the FNB Stadium to the end of their journey at the Stade Felix Houphouet Boigny right in the heart of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

The treatment that the boys were given in countries such as Nigeria were so shoddy that every time they triumphed, it was sweet victory.

The Buccaneers’ conquests in this tournament built character in players such as Fish, Helman Mkhalele and Edward “MaGents” Motale which rubbed off to Bafana Bafana and contributed immensely to the 1996 success.

Therefore, the younger generation of players must watch the World Cup and dream to be there one day.

But their character can only be shaped through tough competition.

So what needs to happen is that our Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs must take CAF competitions seriously.

Their success in these competitions will build the character of their players and this will translate into a strong Bafana Bafana because any national coach will be forced to select most of his squad from the domestic league.

Our players’ mentality should also be transformed, while at the moment they all dream of one day playing for Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns and then going overseas, they must just like their rugby and cricket compatriots, dream of one day pulling that national team jersey over their heads with pride.

Our next opportunity is the 2018 World Cup in Russia. One just hopes that this is being drummed into the heads of the players who are in the age-group that will be ripe to take us there.

There are still the 2015 and 2017 AFCON finals as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This should provide enough ground for the 2018 World Cup.

But proper planning and implementation of the plan is of utmost importance if we are to see the plan bear the desired fruit.

So as we sit at home, watch the World Cup and begrudgingly support all of the five African teams at the World Cup and thinking, “we should have been there”, young up and coming players should be watching and saying “come 2018, we will be there!”

Let the games begin!

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

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Read more on:    bafana bafana  |  s’busiso mseleku  |  soccer
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