Bafana: bright future beckons
ISAPPOINTINGLY, the Nigeria hoodoo remains after our national football team, Bafana Bafana, failed to protect a 2-0 that would have seen them register their first competitive victory over the Super Eagles on Wednesday. But that 2-2 draw should not be allowed to take away from the brilliant work that coach Shakes Mashaba has done in turning around the fortunes of our country’s senior national team.
Bafana are going to participate at the Africa Cup of Nations finals – not as hosts as has been the case previously – for the first time since 2008, and that feat should be celebrated. That we qualified with a match to spare and unbeaten in all six matches makes the achievement all the more special.
What we should be particularly pleased with, though, is the fact that qualification for the biennial, continental showpiece was achieved with a squad for the future.
For years, soccer fans have lamented the fact that coaches kept faith with under-performing, bigname players. Enter Mashaba and all that has changed – the new coach picking his squad on merit and proving that one need not be a Premiership player at a renowned club or over 25 years of age to get the nod.
Youngsters such as Rivaldo Coetzee, who is just 18, as well as unknowns from lowly teams such as Santos have been roped into the squad as Mashaba takes seriously Safa’s Vision 2022 project.
The squad that has qualified for next year’s tournament in Equatorial Guinea, if kept together, can go on to represent the country at the 2018 World Cup with a good number of them young enough to still be around for the 2022 showpiece in Qatar.
What South Africa must not do though, is allow this early success – Mashaba was only mandated to rebuild the squad with the view to qualifying for the 2017 Afcon and 2018 World Cup – to have them expecting too much.
Pressure should not be brought to bear on the squad to win next year’s tournament.
Instead we should see the event as a platform for this young and gallant side to gain experience that will stand them in good stead in the future.