All Bafana need now is our love — a lot of it

by Aubrey Matshiqi.
Matshiqi is a senior research associate at the Centre for Policy Studies

Ninety-seven sleeps from today, Bafana Bafana will win the toss against Mexico and millions around the globe will witness the first kick of the 2010 World Cup.

Hopefully, the toss is not the last thing Bafana will win in the soccer spectacular. The other day, a sangoma threw the bones live on Ukhozi FM and predicted that the days of being embarrassed by our national soccer team are destined to be a thing of the past because Bafana will dazzle the world with a display of soccer skills that was last seen in the time of Pele.

When the sangoma was asked about the formation that should be used to help Bafana win, she consulted the bones again and came back with an astonishing answer from abadala (the ancestors).

I promise you, this is not one of my stupid jokes. Abadala say that our coach should adopt the 0-4-6 formation since, as we saw in Wednesday’s match against Namibia, the best strikers in the country are in the Congress of South African Trade Unions, not Bafana Bafana.

According to abadala, Bafana will win the World Cup with four midfielders and six strikers. When the sangoma was asked about the back line, she said that the ancestors of the country are convinced that six strikers is the absolute minimum the country needs, and they are of the view that a person who can score can be taught to defend.

As you might be aware, I have said one or two impolite things about the national team in the past. The rudeness in my columns is caused by a major disagreement between my brain, on the one hand, and my mouth and typing finger, on the other. I therefore apologise profusely for saying I am not a Bafana supporter. I apologise even more for saying the only way Bafana can win the World Cup is if the matches are played with a rugby ball.

We all know that if Fifa decides to use cricket balls, Bafana will simply choke. My impertinence notwithstanding, Bafana are growing on me like haggis in times of famine. I love my national soccer team, warts and all.

All they need is our love, and I am not talking about the kind they get from some women, and men, when they take off their shirts at the end of a match.

We must love them because the Bafana team of the Confederations Cup displayed the kind of commitment that makes one forgive a team for losing an important match.

While it would be awesome if Bafana won the World Cup, this falls outside the realm of my expectations. I do think, though, that they will exceed our expectations by far. There is something about playing at home, in front of adoring fans, that transforms a struggling team into a well-oiled machine.

It is for this reason that I think the new spirit of commitment among the players, and the support of all South Africans, will deliver the type of performances that won us the African Nations Cup in 1996.

Instead of spending the next 97 days wallowing in pessimism about the performance of Bafana and our readiness to host the World Cup, we should think of ways through which we are going to encourage our colleagues, neighbours, friends and families to be part of the national effort to support Bafana and other teams from the continent.

Without such an effort, I do not see our national team proceeding beyond the first round but, with it, I can see us in the quarterfinals.

Since SA is going to host one of the best World Cups ever, despite a problem here and there, we must make sure that the splendid work that has been done by Irvin Khoza, Danny Jordaan and others is matched by on-field performances that are motivated by unprecedented levels of support for Bafana.

For their part, our national soccer players must remember that our national hockey team has been playing with commitment at the World Cup in India, despite the fact that they struggle to win sponsorships for what is one of SA’s Cinderella sports.

Source: 20100305

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