2010 World Cup
We speak to members of the Bafana Bafana squad that took part in the 2010 World Cup to get their memories a decade on.
ItIt has been a decade since the 2010 World Cup was hosted in South Africa, where the eyes of the planet were firmly fixed on Mzansi amid plenty of doubts from overseas as to whether the country could pull it off. Although Bafana Bafana exited in the first round after a draw with Mexico, a devastating loss to Uruguay and a fine victory over France, it proved a great party for fans, and the highlight of their career for many national team players. KICK OFF’s Mark Gleeson and Nick Said spoke to members of coach Carlos Alberto Parreira’s squad to get their top memories 10 years on.
The time I came on against Uruguay … wow. I was on the bench and the number two in the squad, and Itumeleng Khune gave away a penalty and then got a red card!
You know, you get so engrossed in the game and what is happening, that you don’t always think straight. I turned to ShuAib [ Walters] and said to him, what the f**k is Khune doing, is he f**king mad? Now we don’t have a goalkeeper, what the f**k are we going to do?
Shu-Aib just looked at me a bit strangely and said, ‘what are you talking about, you have to go on?’. At first I told him that this was not the time for jokes, but then it dawned on me. S**t, he was right, I would have to play.
It was absolutely freezing that night in Pretoria and I had a double layer of tights on, and so much other clothing because, to be honest, I did not expect to play, so you just try to keep warm.
The coach and everybody else is telling me to hurry up and get ready, but I took a lot of time to take off the extra layers, doing it slowly just so I could settle my nerves.
As I stood on the side of the field ready to come on, it also dawned on me that I was about to live my dream. On the streets in Mitchell’s Plain where I grew up, we would pretend to be this player or what player in the World Cup, but now I was about to play for real. But when you play on the streets you don’t have Diego Forlan standing in front of you!
When I got to the penalty area and he was lining up the penalty, I was giving him all sorts. I thought, ‘f**k this s**t, this is just another player’. So I was telling him all sorts of things and I know he understood me.
He scored and after that it was all a blur, it went by so quickly. Blink and it was over. But then we had the France game, which we won, and that was amazing.
A young coloured guy from the ghetto, who used to go to the corner shop to buy his mother an entjie [cigarette] or some bread, playing France and Uruguay at the World Cup? Unbelievable!
The night they announced the final squad for the World Cup and I knew I had made the team. I sat there in the room for about an hour afterwards, I couldn’t believe it.
I was one of four goalkeepers in the mix and obviously knew that one of us would be dropped before the tournament. I thought I would lose out to Rowen Fernandez and when I was selected ahead of him, it was unbelievable.
He had come to see the squad when we were in Germany. At first I thought he was just visiting us in camp because he had just come back from a big injury but then he came three or four times to train and then when we went back to South Africa, he came with us. I could see him getting fitter and stronger and in those last few days, I thought I wouldn’t make it and I’d packed my bags already.
We played a friendly against Guatemala in Polokwane and we flew back the same night, getting back to the hotel around 11pm. Then they said we are having a meeting within an hour to announce the squad because the players had all been given a few days off to go and see their families.
They said they wouldn’t announce the 23 but rather the seven players that were not picked. I thought to myself, ‘this is it for me, it was a good experience, a half a month in Brazil, a full month in Germany, but now I’m going home’.
I was really shocked when they didn’t announce my name and I was staying for the final 23.
I don’t want to think about the match against Uruguay again and I don’t want to talk about it please.
If I think about it and talk about it then I’ll be taking myself 10 steps backwards, just when I thought I was beginning to recover from what happened that day.
I’ve struggled to cope with what happened. But the good thing about it is that I did apologise to the nation and life must go on. Despite getting knocked out in the first round of the tournament, I really have good memories.
I watched the opening ceremony on the dressing room TV and at that moment I was very emotional because I couldn‘t believe that I was given the responsibility to save my country in front of the rest of the world.
Our bus trip through Sandton a couple of days before the opening game will always stick in my memory. It caused a bit of controversy within the squad and not all the players wanted to go.
Some said they wanted to concentrate on the game, others did not want to give the perception that we were celebrating before the tournament kicked off.
I know [coach Carlos Alberto] Parreira said later he had wanted everybody to have gone, because it brought home the magnitude of what the World Cup meant to the country.
We were in camp for six months before that, mostly hidden away, and I don’t think a lot of the players really knew what it meant to the nation. But to see something like 200,000 people on the streets of Sandton really brought it home.
I decided to go because leading up to the tournament I realised I would not be in the starting line-up, so a bit of the pressure was off me. If I knew I would be starting, I might have been a bit more indecisive, but for me it will be forever be etched in my memory.
Our team was full of true professionals, and I never really saw much emotion in my teammates throughout my career. But to see grown men shed a tear when they went to warm up against Mexico, that was when it also really struck home.
To go to World Cup is one thing, but to play it in front of your own fans is another thing entirely.
When we were just about to take the fieldfi for the national anthem ahead of the firstfi game against Mexico, although it was a dream come true for me, I wasn’t too sure how it would turn out to be honest.
I remember standing there, at the mouth of the tunnel, my eyes closed and just listening to the vuvuzelas, to the noise from all around.
But then I started to feel like, ‘now is the time, this is what we have been working for, for so long. The build-up had been incredible, I think I had done something like 400 media interviews with local and international journalists. It was hectic!
I stood there just wanting the game to begin, to get a touch of the ball and actually play. There had been so much protocol, visits to people, dignitaries and that sort of thing in the months prior. I just wanted to play football!
Then I opened my eyes and I looked at the Rainbow Nation in front of me, and that was a real highlight. Honestly! I knew we were playing for the whole country.
I would not say I felt tense at all, we had worked very hard as a team and we knew what to do. I was more just anxious to get going. Enough talk, let’s play!
And then of course the goal from ‘Shabba’ … wow, for me that is still the goal of the tournament. Such a great strike from a young man who was hungry to make it and on just about the biggest stage of all.
I was struck already by how momentous the event was going to be when we played our last pre-tournament friendly against
Colombia at Soccer City and there were literally rows and rows of people singing the national anthem.
It was a pretty special moment and showed the significance of the World Cup. The goal I scored against France in Bloemfontein is of course a special memory. We were allowed to go home for a day or so after every game and I remember having a chat with my uncle about scoring goals at the near post before and saying, ‘how amazing it would be score on this stage’.
He suggested why didn’t I try going round the back at set-pieces and so when we got what was I think our first corner, I decided to stroll in a bit late.
As Shabba was approaching the ball I made my run and I remember in mid stride, seeing the ball and thinking, ‘I might have a chance here’ and I guess the timing in terms of my steps, it was spot on and once I planted my foot down I was hanging nicely and ultimately I was happy to get the touch and get it across the line.
The feeling after that … well you cannot describe it. What also made it special, and people have forgotten this, but we had our backs to the wall coming into that game. We were under enormous pressure from the previous result [losing to Uruguay in Pretoria] and it was important to exit the tournament on a positive note.
Gaxa, who last year obtained a Political Science and Social Studies degree from Wits University, declined the opportunity to contribute to this article, saying he does not want to talk about football for personal reasons.
It has to be the opening game against Mexico, with the whole atmosphere and that goal from Tshabalala. It was something else.
I was on the bench, but after the ball hit the back of the net, the whole stadium just erupted. The noise was incredible, I think there were a lot of non-South African supporters in there that were behind us, so they cheered just as wildly.
It was like the stadium was going to break into pieces, I can still feel it today!
But I also remember the way we came together as a country, you could see it in the stadium that day, people from all walks of life. You could also see it in the parade we had in Sandton, where it was as if we
had won the World Cup, there were so many people out to greet us.
But that opening game … for me personally, a boy from Gugulethu to be walking on the pitch on the opening day of the World Cup ... it was beyond a dream.
We were excited, but also nervous. This was not club football, this was the world stage, everybody was watching us and watching South Africa and how we would host the tournament.
And then we had family there too, to share this moment with us. I just wanted to get out there, even if it was for a few minutes, but it was not be that day. But I was so glad to start when we beat France , that was such a proud moment for me.
I can remember when we were going to play the opening game of the tournament, you could sense how the country was united and everyone was behind the team.
I remember when the national anthem was playing, there were tears running down the cheeks of the some of the guys. Just being there … the feeling … it was just amazing. When the anthem was playing
I felt now the World Cup was here, it was really happening. You get goose bumps at those moments. I had mixed emotions, to be honest. On the one hand, you are playing at home and you don’t want to disappoint your people. We had a sense for a long time of what it meant to people.
Even when we were on camp, people would stop their cars, hooting, waving flag. So, when we were there, lining up before the game and hearing the national anthem, all of those images played through your mind. The whole country is behind us and we are carrying so many people’s hopes.
We were the nation’s pride. It was so emotional. Then immediately after the national anthem, I never heard vuvuzelas so hard in my career. The wall of sound made it feel like the stadium was vibrating.
I was just thrilled to have made the final cut for the World Cup. A player from (Lamontville Golden) Arrows being in the squad was an achievement on its own.
I had so wished to play in the World Cup, as much as the other squad members, but we all had been working on the same mission. The players made it difficult for the coach to make a final decision about who to pick.
I think for me it was the bus tour and how ridiculous it was to ask the players to do that two days before the opening game, when we should have been focussing on the match, preparing tactically and all that.
A lot of the players were really upset about it because the timing was so bad, I mean, why could we not have done it a week before?
So there was a lot of unhappiness and in the group and the coach [Carlos Alberto Parreira] came to speak to us and he was fuming as well. I have never experienced something like that.
I think it was a case of them not really thinking about the players and our preparation. I remember too that I think it was the hottest day in June! So it was a pretty bad decision all round.
But then the day before the game the team manager got a psychologist to come and speak to us. He showed us a move that was off the Discovery Channel, something about lions hunting in packs.
It was all about teamwork and how you work together for a common goal. It was pretty cool, I must say.
My best memory is the France game that we won, we should have beaten them by four or five goals! We created so many chances and to be so dominant in a game against that quality of players was amazing for us.
I think we were really able to show what a good team we were in that match, even though we were really under pressure to get a result with only one points from the two games.
It was my only game and I must admit
I was scared beforehand. You knew that this is the big stage and the whole world is watching you. I was very, very nervous.
But another thing I remember is what a good coach we had in [Carlos Alberto] Parreira. He helped me to relax and said I must just play my normal game, do the things that I have been doing in training.
He said I should be like [Brazilian midfielder] Dunga, just keep it simple. ‘Khuboni, don’t try to do too many things,’ he said. ‘Just know what you are doing and what you want to do. Be clear in what you must do’.
I think I delivered on the day, it was a good game for me personally and a good game for
the nation, because although we went out after that, we had restored some pride with a good win against a very good team.
There are so many memories, but if you ask me what sticks with me now 10 years on, it was actually the build-up that we had to the tournament.
I think we were basically in camp for six months and while that really brought us together as a group, and made us stronger, it was very tough on the guys with families and so on.
To be away from your loved ones so much was very hard. We only got to see them for a very short time in between camps and then it was on to the next one.
I remember we went to Brazil for about a month, then came back and went to Germany after that for some weeks.
We spent time in Durban and then came back for a few days and it was straight into the Jo’burg camps and basically on to the tournament.
But like I said, it did make us a better as a team. Guys got to know each other inside out on and off the pitch.
We learnt about each other’s’ strengths and weaknesses, what makes a guy tick, and we were very organised as a team. I think that showed in matches.
The goal against Mexico I think was the best that I ever scored in my career. Not necessary for the technique or anything like that, I think I scored better ones, but for what it meant to people. And what is still means to people today.
The goal was well worked, it was not something that happened by chance. There was planning in it, it came from our strong organisation.
We were compact and kept our shape when Mexico had possession of the ball, and then when we managed to get hold of it, we knew they were open to a counter-attack and had left holes at the back.
Kagisho [Dikgacoi] had the ball and he knew where those holes were. The pass he played, for me, was one of the best assists in football history. The timing and weight of the ball was perfect. He could not have played it any better.
Initially I thought about lobbing it over the goalkeeper [Óscar Pérez], because I knew he was not a ‘line keeper’ and he would come forward towards me.
But in the end I just went for power. The connection was perfect, I had good technique, and the power and speed of the ball was great.
I knew it was going in immediately. The millisecond it left my foot I knew it was in. As a player, sometimes you just sense these things. In my head I was celebrating long before the ball hit the back of the net.
I was kind of in my own world. I wanted to cry, I wanted to laugh. I think I just ended up screaming! It is something that is hard to describe.
What I remember is the pressure we felt. We were the first country in Africa to host the World Cup, and so it is a very good memory from that point of view.
But at the same time, it was very difficult to focus on just football. It was hard to not be in the same mood as the citizens. We knew it was not just about football, also needed this tournament to be successful, for the country and for ourselves.
We wanted everything to go well, the hosting, the games. It should not have been something we worried about, but like every South African we felt it. We felt the need for this tournament to go off smoothly and it was too much pressure on us as players.
It was very difficult to concentrate only on the games. There were a lot
of things said about the country not being ready, there would be this and that problems and it would be a failure.
And so we had to work hard on staying focussed because we had a very good team and we had the right people around us to help.
We talked about it a bit as players, but you know, when you look on the pitch, you can talk all day about the teams we faced because they were all experienced at World Cups.
You could talk about the threat of France or Uruguay, about the quality of Mexico, bit it was obvious. It would be a waste of time to get too caught up in that.
We focussed on ourselves as a team, and focussed on our strengths. And try to shut everything else out. But it was not easy.
On the day of the first game [against Mexico], I remember there were fans near our hotel blowing their vuvuzelas at 05h00 in the morning! That already got our nerves going because you realised this was not a normal match.
Then on the way to the stadium, seeing the fan parks packed and all the people on the streets, the nerves got even more before you knew things were about to get real and we really wanted to make the country proud.
I must admit, I just wanted that first game to be over, almost as soon as it started. I wanted us to seal the game, and the referee to blow the final whistle so we could go home.
It is normal that you play under pressure for your country, but this was something else, there was so much expected of us.
In the first half they were all over us and it was really difficult. We couldn’t play, they were pressing us high and at halftime the coach [Carlos Alberto Parreira] told us to try and play the ball quicker and try and get in behind them.
That is what happened. They were pressing us but we won the ball, I did a quick one-two with Yeye [Reneilwe Letsholonyane] and by that time Shabba [Siphiwe Tshabalala] was already on the move.
I just slid the ball in and he did the rest. It was a great goal and it did settle us a little bit. I think after that we had some more chances, Killer [Katlego Mphela] hit the post. I still think we should have won the game.
It was the best, best time of my career. A boy coming from Mitchell’s Plain to make the World Cup … I get goosebumps even now just thinking about it.
I remember most vividly the announcement of the squad after we came back from playing Guatemala in Polokwane. Usually when you win a match everyone is happy climbing into the bus after the game, but then the coach announced that he would naming the squad when we got back to the hotel and suddenly the whole bus was quiet.
Everyone was tense. I think everyone was nervous about not making it. I had played a lot of the initial friendly games at the start of the build-up but coming into tournament I hadn’t been playing regularly, so of course I felt uneasy. As a footballer, you’re never sure so my emotions were high.
It was early hours of the morning. I was lucky my name was called out in the middle of the list and so I didn’t have to suffer through the reading of the whole 23. I was elated to be selected but you are part of as team, sitting there with the rest of a squad, so you don’t want to how your emotions straight away.
You feel for the guys who were not named. It was just unbelievable experience, just a magical moment for me to be selected.
Not qualifying for the next round is the thing that stands out for me. It was not good. Especially being the home team, we felt we let a lot of people down.
Obviously it’s a great achievement for any player to get to represent his country, and then also to do so on the world stage. That has given me much satisfaction, going to a World Cup is a dream for any player and to go on and achieve that is something I can look back on with a sense of pride.
For me as a player, you have to rate that as a career highlight but then it is dampened by the fact that we did not qualify past the group stage and to the second round. We have to be frank, that was a low moment for everyone.
Stepping onto the pitch for the first time, at the opening game, knowing it was the only game on that day and the whole world would be watching us.
Just the feeling of walking out onto the pitch … even the routines of the warmup was way different to anything I’ve ever experienced before. It was both nerve wracking and exciting at the same time.
All those feeling came together at the same time, especially when we started to sing the national anthem. That’s when we realised how real and how big the
tournament was. That’s one thing that really stood out.
Of course, when you are driving in the bus to the game, you see the supporters but only once we got to the stadium did you get the real sense of what it was all about. Just seeing all the different flags, the different fans, it really brought it all home.
Every game we played came with its own challenges. The first game we were expecting to come out with a better result, especially being the hosts against Mexico, but I think the pressure was heavily on us.
We started believing after Shabba scored but we had a difficult game against Uruguay. We thought we could win it but Itu [Khune] got a red card and so many other things went wrong for us that night. Looking back, our lot would have been different had we won against Mexico and it remains a regret to this day.
I had a chance right at the end of the opening game against Mexico and that moment is still always in my mind. I still think that if the angle was a bit more to my right I would have scored. I would have had better contact with the ball and it would have gone in and it would have changed our lives. Instead it hit the upright.
The ball was slightly on my left and I had to try and force it and I couldn’t get the proper contact. It was one of those. I think had it gone in we would have gone on to qualify.
Walking through the tunnel at the start of the game was also an unbelievable experience. I’d never seen Soccer City so packed, it was unreal and I still get goosebumps thinking about it today.
Everything was blank for me until about 15 minutes before kick off and then suddenly it was, like, ‘now it’s the time’. I cannot properly explain the incredible feeling of being part of it all but I do remember how nerve wracking it all ways.
My World Cup memories will live forever. The moment that stands out most for me was beating France in our last group game in Bloemfontein.
Beating them 2-1 was a such a great moment, particularly as we were playing against such big stars. Many of the French were power house players in world football, like Djibril Cisse and Frank Ribery in the starting line-up, and Thierry Henry and Florent Malouda who came on as substitutes.
Also sharing that experience with the rest of the squad afternoon was unbelievable, even though we were then out of the tournament.
I started the game against France and that was by far my favourite moment.
The biggest memory for me of the World Cup is the electrifying atmosphere at the stadiums and on the streets during the competition.
Being able to play an international tournament in our own country and in front of our home fans was the biggest thrill and a great honour.
Off the field, the team morale in the camp was incredible, as we were united. We all wanted to achieve the same goal and we put aside our individual teams and focused on doing Mzansi proud.
The technical team played a major role in bringing us together and promoting team unity. The game we won in our group against France made us all feel proud to represent our country. I came on as a substitute for that game.
Although we did not progress from the group stages, we felt proud to have been able to play at the World Cup and in front of our home fans, coming up against the likes Thierry Henry and Franck Ribery, and winning the game.
* Siyabonga Sangweni spoke previously to KICK OFF magazine about his World Cup experiences.
** Lucas Thwala was not available for a interview.
LEFT: Bafana Bafana line up ahead of the opening match. ABOVE: Tsepo Masilela challenges Ricardo Osorio of Mexico. The teams drew 1-1.
BELOW: Brazillian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira led the World Cup Bafana Bafana team.
ABOVE: Goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs is beaten by Alvaro Pereira of Uruguay during Bafana’s second Group A encounter. Bafana lost 3-0.
After the defeat by Uruguay, Bafana came back with a vengeance to beat France 2-1 in their third Group A encounter. Katlego Mphela (above) and Bongani Khumalo (right) were the goalscorers.