Bafana Bafana

Bafana: Just enjoy the moment

2013-11-20 14:30
Bafana celebrate (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - So many emotions, such a tumultuous result ... at least on paper.

“South Africa 1 Spain 0”: it is not a news flash you see every day, and one that perhaps won’t be revisited in many of our lifetimes.

In the annals of Bafana Bafana’s rather turbulent soccer history, yes, it’s an outcome to dine out on ... just a bit like diehard Scots still rejoice over Archie Gemmill’s wonder goal for the minnows during victory against a Dutch side at roughly their prime in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. (Gemmill is now 66, would you fellow old-timers believe?).

So my advice is simple - revel in its very occurrence at FNB Stadium on Tuesday night for a few days or even weeks, and do not excessively analyse its significance, from whichever starting angle you may choose to tackle it.  

Almost inevitably and at least to some extent understandably, there’s already been a desperate, immediate and blinkered quest to do just that.

In short, we should not fall into the trap of over-estimating the achievement of knocking over the defending World Cup champions and still No 1-ranked side, just as we are equivalently entitled to guard against being guilty of under-valuing it.

There are many reasons to temper the glee, probably the most obvious one to knowledgeable football fans being that international friendlies carry immeasurably less weight now than they did, say, even 20 years ago.

While natural, national pride should not be simply brushed to one side, just how much do you think the mega-salaried club superstars of Barca and Real today “get up” for games of this kind, especially when there are so often two of them jammed into a few days during a hiatus in already energy-sapping domestic and Champions League activity?

In a situation like Tuesday’s, there’s always a very good chance the representatives of the rank hometown underdogs - as Bafana were and still are - will be mentally more switched-on than their foes, who may have flown long distances to get there and be playing in a largely unfamiliar environment (the effect of Highveld altitude can never be dismissed).

With respect, once-in-a-blue-moon score-lines like this one do and will continue to happen worldwide.

And if this had been a World Cup meeting, for instance, do you really think Vicente del Bosque would have cavalierly emptied his entire bench allocation so long before the final whistle, exposing the danger of a late injury that depletes his on-field numbers?

Certainly Spain would not, under major-tournament circumstances, have had the luxury of Pepe Reina entering the fray in a rule-bending occurrence as emergency-enforced third goalkeeper.

It is also patent nonsense to suggest, in the wake of this Bafana giant-slaying, that there is some kind of injustice now in South Africa’s absence from Brazil 2014.

Reality check: a great number of enduringly better teams than ours failed to crack the nod for the samba-fest; that’s the way the cookie crumbles and always has.

South Africa failed to advance from a modest African group containing Ethiopia, Botswana and Central African Republic (and no, none of the others eventually earned tickets to South America, either).

If you want to lump far too much gravitas on friendly outcomes, too, then remember that it was well less than a year ago (January 8, to be precise) that Bafana lost 1-0 even to a greatly weakened Norwegian outfit and
despite being egged on by a vibrant and swollen Cape Town Stadium crowd.

That is confirmation that South Africa remain guilty, if that is the right word, of saving their most rousing performances for when they tackle “sexy” opposition, yet staying fumbling and bumbling when they are supposed to roll up their sleeves against far more mortal foes, either on our own continent or from elsewhere.

So that’s a bit of perspective ... but at the same time there is abundant ammunition for genuinely enthusing about events against the virtually full-strength Spaniards.

This was a performance of rare passion and purpose by Gordon Igesund’s Bafana, marked by a swift and hungry flair for counter-attack despite the - expected - possession supremacy of around 60 percent by the illustrious visitors.

Truth be told, Spain looked menacing for the first 10 minutes as South Africa got off to a flaky start defensively, but then the wheel of fortune only shifted ever more stealthily as confidence ballooned in the Bafana ranks.

The turnaround was so acute that with a bit less excitability in clear situations of goal-scoring opportunity, the hosts might well have won 2-0 and nobody could really have quibbled with that margin, either.

As much as they were revealingly motivated, the South Africans ticked several technical boxes as well, as they matched the strangely subdued Spain for athleticism and physicality and often made well-timed, really decisive tackles when under the cosh.

Now can they transfer this fit of excellence into more consistent success?

“Our team spirit is up to the ceiling,” enthused the deserved goal-scoring hero Bernard Parker immediately afterwards, and just another big winner was coach Igesund, who ought to have bought a fair bit more time in his role after wolves had begun growling a bit at the managerial door.

Hey, maybe we’re not so bad after all. Isn’t that a marvellous enough feeling for us all to bank today?

Stop thinking ... just rejoice!

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    bafana bafana  |  soccer

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