Johannesburg - The South African Football Association (SAFA) has lauded the country’s national teams, calling 2014 a historic year in terms of teams’ success.
Four of the national teams – Banyana Banyana, Under-20, Under-17 and Bafana Bafana – all qualified for CAF continental competitions in their respective areas, something which is a first for the country.
Banyana Banyana under coach Vera Pauw qualified for the African Women Championships in Namibia, narrowly missing on the spot for the World Cup by a whisker.
The Under-20 drew with African powerhouse Cameroon 1-1 in the first leg before overcoming them 2-1 in Polokwane in the second leg to seal a berth in the African Junior Championships scheduled for Senegal next year.
Then it was the turn of the Under-17 to shine on the continent as they beat Egypt 2-1 in the first leg before holding the North Africans to a famous 2-2 draw in Cairo to complete a 4-3 aggregate win and book a place in the CAF Youth Championships which will take place in Niger next year.
If Amajita finish among the top four teams in Senegal, they will qualify for the World Cup scheduled for New Zealand and if Amajimbos emulate the same feat in Niger, they will qualify for the World Cup in Chile.
Both the U20 and U17 World Cups will take place next year.
On Saturday at Moses Mabhida Stadium, on-fire Bafana Bafana stormed into the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations finals which will take place in Equatorial Guinea after Morocco were stripped of the rights. They finished top of the Group with a game to spare.
Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba said ahead of leaving for Nigeria on Monday that it was high time fans rallied behind the national teams.
"I have been saying this now and again that the soccer gods are really smiling on us.
"We are on a roll as far as our national teams are concerned.
"We have had one of the most successful years in the history of our country – all four national teams qualifying for CAF tournaments.
"How many countries can pride themselves in such a record?" he asked.
SAFA president Danny Jordaan said his executive’s vision 2022 was being realised sooner than later.
"I am equally astounded but enthusiastic about our national teams’ achievements this year.
"It has been an amazing year if you consider where we were only 12 months ago," he reminisced.
Apart from the success on the field of play, Jordaan said SAFA had made remarkable achievements on its commercial aspect in which it completed a number of sponsorship deals with Nike, Avis, Motsepe Foundation, EY, GPI/Burger King in addition to long term existing partners such as Castle/SAB, Sasol, TigerBrands, Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and Tsogo Sun.
The Association also concluded a massive R1 billion sponsorship deal for all its future broadcasting activities.
Only last week, SAFA acquired a R100 million Technical Centre which will be the National Football Centre for the country, housing the training, education and research facilities. The centre will benefit everyone involved in the game at every level.
“The Technical Centre will, among other things be national home for coach education, in time producing better players, cutting-edge sports science and medicine and a training home for all our national teams.
“It will be a catalyst for increased grassroots participation,” added Dr Jordaan.