Goal­less, win­less, point­less, Bafana’s Egypt Af­con hu­mil­i­a­tion

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MATSHELANE MAMABOLO

CAN’T SCORE; Can’t de­fend; Can’t win! That’s Bafana Bafana’s Egypt 2006 cam­paign in a nut­shell. To think it promised so much? Com­ing as it did on the 10th an­niver­sary of South Africa’s Africa Cup of Na­tions vic­tory from 1996, the op­ti­mistic among us ex­pected glory for Bafana. And the late Ted Du­mitru gave the im­pres­sion of a man set to stop the rut of the coun­try’s pa­thetic Af­con form. In his inim­itable way, good Ol’ Loud Mouth talked up our chances so much you couldn’t help but buy into the hype. His squad teemed with young, new blood – play­ers hun­gry to prove them­selves – and with his lo­cal cham­pi­onship pedi­gree of four cham­pi­onships (two of which he had just won back-to-back with Kaizer Chiefs), hopes of suc­cess sprang eter­nal. And when Bafana beat Egypt in Cairo on a rainy day, ev­ery­thing pointed to a glo­ri­ous tour­na­ment to end the mis­ery of pre­vi­ous ones that had seen us move from be­ing cham­pi­ons to first round ca­su­al­ties in 2004. Then “The Master” de­liv­ered the quote of the year. “Gen­tle­men, the pack­age is ready to be de­liv­ered,” Du­mitru said, promis­ing to bring home the tro­phy. That Bafana came home goal­less, win­less and point­less is a story even the lay soc­cer per­son knows only too well about. It was painful ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it first hand, though. Leav­ing Cairo for Alexan­dria, all of us South Africans were walk­ing with a spring in our step – quick to let the Egyptians know we’re from that coun­try whose na­tional team had hu­mil­i­ated theirs in their own back­yard. But beat­ing Egypt was no guar­an­tee we would cruise through the group stage where Guinea, back then ranked sec­ond on the con­ti­nent, ti­tle hold­ers Tu­nisia as well as our neigh­bours, Zam­bia, lay in wait as op­po­si­tion. First up was Guinea who had the man moun­tain that was Bobo Balde, the cen­tre-back who was play­ing for Glas­gow Celtic at the time. To say he snuffed out the Bafana at­tack would be an un­der­state­ment. At the end Bafana suf­fered a 2-0 de­feat – Guinea scor­ing two late goals and old Ted clutch­ing at straws for ex­cuses. Be­fore go­ing to Egypt, Bafana had played some friendlies at home in the rain. And fol­low­ing that vic­tory over Egypt in Cairo, Du­mitru had spo­ken of how grand it was to have played in the rain. Yet when the Carthage Ea­gles ham­mered us 2-0, good old Ted was com­plain­ing about how hard it was for his play­ers to see the ball in the rain. “We were dis­abled by the rain,” he said. Re­ally? It was to get worse in the fi­nal group match played at the smaller Alexan­dria Sta­dium where it buck­eted down through­out the game. Al­ready out of the tour­na­ment, Bafana needed a face­sav­ing vic­tory or at least a goal to come back home with. But Chris Ka­tongo scored the game’s soli­tary goal and I re­mem­ber at the end of the match the big Bafana se­cu­rity Al­bert Hlong­wane a bear hug that seemed to say “bye-bye Ted”. And so it was that we had our worst Af­con ever – goal­less, win­less and point­less.

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