Get real over Bafana, people!

2012-10-13 15:00

Cape Town – Only the spectacularly naive and excessively demanding will be painting a renewed portrait of doom and gloom in the wake of South Africa’s 1-0 friendly loss to Poland in Warsaw on Friday.

It’s a pity, of course, that there are so many of these dubious pundits, both amateur and professional. Sadly the rest of us have to put up with them.

Notable numbers of such people -- judging by what you see on Twitter, the blogosphere and even in some sections of the print media on Saturday -- crept out of their holes to curse the outcome, their indignation matched only by their severe misdiagnosis of reality.

How dare we lose to Poland?

Well, I can give you some statistically watertight suggestions, for starters: the Poles may not exactly be European luminaries right now but they are a proud footballing nation with deeper international traditions than South Africa, even if our country was impeded for decades in that regard by isolation.

Poland are 54th on the current FIFA rankings, which is probably lower than their enthusiastic public wish for ... and it is still all of 22 notches better than Bafana Bafana.

They are veterans of seven World Cup tournaments and even sport two third-placed finishes (1974 and 1982). Their amateur side earned Olympic gold in 1972.

To this day, ask any of the more heavyweight European soccer teams – Germany, Spain, France, and others – about confirmed or prospective missions to Poland and they are bound to tell you, and not by way of polite platitude, that it is a tough little trek.

England go to Warsaw for a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, deceptively buoyed by a 5-0 drubbing of San Marino ... but also mindful that an altogether more acid test is imminent.

Against that backdrop, Bafana earning parity until as late as the agonising 82nd minute against Poland – and this on top of a reasonably similar occurrence in Brazil – surely has to be considered another tentative step in the right direction?

It is true that it took at least two sublime close-range shot stops from goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune to possibly prevent the visitors from losing by a broader margin, but offsetting this is that South Africa came within a whisker of scoring on a couple of occasions themselves.

There is a general rawness -- and especially an inability to retain possession for meaningful periods – about this Bafana side that only reminds you Gordon Igesund has formidable work ahead of him.

But the group of players he is presently working with, rookie and more seasoned alike, have a certain chutzpah and welcome fearlessness about them, too.

They keep going and they play for the proverbial badge, which is not always something Bafana sides of the last 10-15 years could be consistently lauded for.

South Africa, even whilst hardly laden with settled positional combinations, commanded obvious periods of ascendancy, which was enough of a reason for heads not to drop in any shame at the final whistle.

“We’ve put on a brave face; we’ve been aggressive ... we stick together and we keep fighting,” said the articulate new captain Bongani Khumalo in a fairly apt, no-frills appraisal of events at the National Stadium on Friday.

There was a nice dollop of post-mortem honesty, into the bargain, from newly-capped left back Ricardo Nunes, who may have been caught out at times defensively, but also showed great promise as a deliverer of teasing set-piece ball.

The Slovakian-based customer admitted – apparently after the often helter-skelter game was played on a very heavy surface – that he had rather run out of puff on debut “from around 65 minutes”.

Bearing in mind that the contest would have served as a valuable educative experience for Nunes and others, there is no harm in acknowledging that, is there?

It helped that the friendly – so many of this brand of internationals can be tepid and soulless – was fast-paced and for the best part entertaining.

 No, to those who feel compelled to start muttering that Bafana are simply back where the sun doesn’t shine and the scent is predominantly odious, I would argue that we could haul out video nasties of infinitely greater gruesomeness from, say, the Santana, Baxter or Mosimane eras for a suitable reality check.

It is when the home-staged African Cup of Nations comes along – and before it maybe also the Nelson Mandela Challenge blue-chip friendly against champions Zambia on November 14 – that Igesund and his ideology will warrant more all-embracing, cards-on-the-table scrutiny.

Until then, and without in any way wishing to come across as a conscious apologist for the coach, he must be given the necessary leeway to continue his testing and tinkering as he seeks to establish, as he put it shortly after Friday’s fixture, “who’s who in the zoo”.

There are some quite appealing animals, actually ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing



  • claude.felbert - 2012-10-13 15:58

    We have to learn to pass more accurately and not to pass back as frequently as we do -- we must go forward more often.

      jackie.stone.501 - 2012-10-13 21:36

      @theO rAcLe please stop bringing your stupid comment into the beautiful game. Everyone knows the answer to that, white south african are not interested in playing soccer. Perhaps we should be asking you the same question, where is the white player. Are they not interesting in mixing with black people in sport, tell me of any white player who deserve to be included in the squad but was left out then we can start entertaining your stupid comments

      morne.linden - 2012-10-13 23:18

      Theo as soon as white people learn how to play soccer then you will be included. I don't see any whites lining up to play and if you know of someone let us know, if not STFU.

  • virgilioc - 2012-10-13 16:34

    This team has promise and I laud Gordon for trying all possabilities before discarding those who aint made for giving South Africa respect as a football team. We are not world champs nor wont we in many years but gaining a respectful name as a team is what Gordon will achieve.

  • masupa.tsela - 2012-10-13 16:41

    Mr writer, we don't need an 'articulate' captain at this moment, we need a captain who is performing above average all the time.\r\nWe don't need an English lecturer in the field of play! We need a player that his play for Bafana is inspires, and worth the band he wears on his arm.\r\nAnd as for Gordon, I know that as was sidelined for Bafana due to quotas at the time, and I know that his stay on the helm will be extended by Twitter fans including the likes of you the writer! We hear the same for Heyneke Meyer!

      chris.andrews.547389 - 2012-10-14 08:38

      who would u then choose as head coach for our boys...?

  • kingKanete - 2012-10-13 16:42

    excuses excuses

  • hendrik.schutte.3152 - 2012-10-13 16:47

    I think Gordon is steering the team in the right direction. good result vs brazil, (away) and good game vs Poland {also away}. Our team seems to be playing with more freedom and confidence than they have for many, many years. I see some light at the end of the tunnel.

  • bongane.zwane.948 - 2012-10-13 17:36


  • zahierm - 2012-10-13 18:31

    International football is a harsh, tough , competitive and very uncomprimising environment. We do not even have one world class footballer in our midst...we are minnows in world football terms. That's the reality we don't seem to want to accept...grow up football we are simply not good enough.

  • - 2012-10-13 19:17

    I agree with your statement that Poland isn't a joke they got a rich football history and its no disgrace to lose to them. South Africa isn't blessed with physically powerful footballers like the West Africans and for me that is where lack. Yes we have talented footballers but so does every country.

      nhlanhla.mahlangu.7393 - 2012-10-13 19:46

      another lame excuse! is messi (the bst in the world) physically, argentina, brazil, n spain, are they physically? luk @ united Germany very physically bt not winin always 2nd bst! soccer s not like rugby where physic counts most!

      kndobe - 2012-10-13 20:02

      loool.. u must be joking about the size

  • Gaoboihe John Kgasane - 2012-10-13 19:46

    Lets be objective when assessing the performance of Bafana and not be naive thinking miracles will happen after change of coach. This team does not perform.

  • nico.dejongh.90 - 2012-10-13 21:46

    Bafana can do with cheery songs. The vuvuzela is as monotonous as can get, loud and irritating. Euro soccer sounds great. Supporters... Wake up!.

  • morne.linden - 2012-10-13 23:37

    \Only the spectacularly naive and excessively demanding\. You can say that again.

  • Ty Lamont - 2012-10-14 00:40

    you can have the best coach in the world but its not going to improve the quality and talent of the players we have in this country. football is not a traditional sport is South Africa like cricket and rugby and unfortunately we have adopted a style of play that will never get us very far in the present and future. football is a way of life and any soccer purist will tell u that its an adopted skill. its simple. look at Germany,Brazil,France,England,Spain etc look at their past, at their history and how they live and breath football. we dont have the tradition and the values to EVER be a footballing nation.

      nhlanhla.mahlangu.7393 - 2012-10-14 22:05

      u clearly know little abt sport, Germany-when was the last time they won a silveware? not to mention England? what do u say abt cricket in S.A? the truth we're chokers in that game!

  • darra.pillay - 2012-10-14 09:08

    WE ARE ORDINARY! There is a perception, not only in sport, that we are God's gift to the world that we are special and rank right up there with the best in the world. We are ordinary, less than ordinary. Our first task is to realise this and then to do something about it. This is the "do something about it" period. A few decades ago Poland was one of the better world teams. It has the pedigree and to compare ourselves with them is naive and simplistic. We have a way to go' along way. We've started with Igesund. Lets GO! Lets get on with it.

  • okuhle2009 - 2012-10-14 10:21

    Oh no lets giv giys a chance n go support the team n stop peperezing too much. only 3 games with 2 of then with strong teams away from home. These are friendly games to build a team n Gorden is doing just that.

  • okuhle2009 - 2012-10-14 10:21

    Oh no lets give guys a chance n go support the team n stop peperezing too much. only 3 games with 2 of then with strong teams away from home. These are friendly games to build a team n Gorden is doing just that.

  • tselemela1 - 2012-10-14 11:11

    We beat them 1 - 0 in 2009! Stop protecting ur white folk. GI's starting line up for the day was not the best SA can offer nxx!

      suffer.kate.9 - 2012-10-14 12:15

      Stop protecting ur White Folk? Bwahahahahaha! When in doubt-play the race card. Do it! Poland are a Minnow team. A defeat against them in 2009 means zero in terms of accomplishment. A loss against them means a whole lot more! Smeone once said: "If you consistantly try something the same way and fail, you can only declare yourself consistant failure."

      nhlanhla.mahlangu.7393 - 2012-10-14 21:59

      when we lost wit a black coach there's no headline like this! bt wat i know s that: the bafana job s permanent always temporary. Lol

  • suffer.kate.9 - 2012-10-14 11:48

    The only reallity is that South Africa plays African style soccer as opposed to the more popular European football - and are not even good at that either. This is why SA cannot and will not be able to compete on an international level. The skills in international level football out-weighs the skill levels in African style soccer by a huge margin. SA's game plan is always defend/defend/defend. Any team can play the defend game. But that has only 2 outcomes... a boring draw, or a humiliating defeat. SA needs to toss 80% of the entire team and start from scratch.

      nhlanhla.mahlangu.7393 - 2012-10-14 21:55

      plz dear play rugby game not soka!

  • matvee111 - 2012-10-15 04:59

    Let's stop over analyzing Bafana's depressing really

  • pages:
  • 1