Bafana Bafana

Bafana's bizarre preparation for AFCON qualifiers

2018-06-11 14:29
Stuart Baxter (Gallo)

Cape Town - To some it seems bizarre and to others simply crazy how SAFA is preparing - or should that be not preparing - warm-up fixtures for Bafana Bafana's shadow squad prior to the vital African Nations Cup qualification programme that gets into full swing in September.

It would seem to border on the incredulous that in the seven months since Bafana's fate in not qualifying for the looming World Cup tournament in Russia was sealed last November with successive defeats against Senegal, what can be termed a first-choice national squad has not played a single game in order to hone an appropriately well-knit combination for the AFCON qualifiers - and for the 2019 tournament taking place in the 2019 Cameroon as well should qualification be achieved.

And believe it or not - as Ripley's famed "Believe it or Not" chronicles challenged - president Danny Jordaan's SAFA regime has not at this point arranged any preparation games for what can be termed the genuine Bafana line-up during the next three months prior to the AFCON qualifier against Libya in September either.

Instead, in the past two weeks while World Cup qualifiers brushed up their prospects for world's soccer's premier event in warm-up games, many of them against teams who failed to qualify for Russia, South Africa failed to arrange timely participation in some of these matches.

Bafana ended up relegated to the plate segment of Southern Africa's modest Cosafa Cup with a squad made up almost entirely of possible future prospects, but who are now already handed full international caps by virtue of the games against 106th-ranked Madagascar (lost in a penalty shoot-out after a goalless draw), a 4-1 win over 114th-ranked Namibia and a 3-0 success against 139th-ranked Botswana.

In all, five of these effectively pseudo, but officially recognised internationals have been arranged, while the "real" Bafana have remained conspicuously inactive.

In the long-term, the young prospects enforced on coach Stuart Baxter by SAFA's hazy fixturing may benefit from their experience, but it must be pointed out that, in the main, their opponents have been no stronger than those they face regularly in domestic matches.

As for the immediate challenge of enhancing Bafana's prospects, a starry-eyed SAFA has done little, if anything.

Indeed, games played against lowly ranked opponents, even when successful, do nothing to improve Bafana's world ranking, with defeats, particularly when played at home, paradoxically costly - with South Africa's already modest 72nd ranking slipping further to 74th this month.

And don't blame Baxter for the mish-mash either. It's not the job of the coach to go through the administrative paper work and bargaining that are required to organise international games with a degree of foresight.

So, with friends like those in SAFA's administration, does the Bafana coach truly need enemies?

Read more on:    safa  |  bafan bafana  |  stuart baxter  |  soccer
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