It's good in Gabon, but I miss Bafana

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

C'est bon. It's good. I have heard this phrase so much here that I now say it with so much con­fi­dence you would swear flu­ent French will follow it. Luck­ily for me, no-one has picked up on my de­cep­tion. Then again, ask­ing some­one fur­ther ques­tions af­ter they said all is good is unAfrican, even if they aren't good. Uganda and Egypt prob­a­bly used sim­i­lar words in their lan­guages to de­scribe how they felt watch­ing the Africa Cup of Na­tions (Af­con) in the past. The Cranes haven't been here in 39 years. It's a bit bet­ter for the seven-time African cham­pi­ons Egypt but no doubt equally painful be­cause the three edi­tions they missed must have felt like 30 years. It was in­ter­est­ing ob­serv­ing the me­dia from these coun­tries of Stade de Port-Gen­til on Satur­day night. The Egyp­tians boss ev­ery press box they are in. They speak loudly and brashly, want­ing to be in charge even if they are in for­eign place. But who would blame them. Their teams are African foot­ball roy­alty. Ev­ery ma­jor con­ti­nen­tal

it a recordthe com­pe­ti­tion­most. seven The has times. Pharaohsan Egyp­tian Al-Ahly have side boast won that eight­the has Af­con CAF won Cham­pi­onssec­ond most League Cham­pi­ons ti­tles. LeagueThe teams ti­tles, with five, the in­cludesTP Mazembe. Za­malek who share that hon­our with

Mem­bers of the Egyp­tian press could hardly sit down, shout­ing in Ara­bic as the Ugan­dans made their team sweat. They would sit ,only to an­grily punch their key­boards be­fore strand­ing up to shout some more.

In con­trast, the Ugan­dan me­dia was meek but not silent. One shouted oc­ca­sion­ally but the most watched anx­iously. A few of them were clad in the colours of their na­tional team. In the in­ter­na­tional arena, sport jour­nal­ists can be openly bi­ased and wear their colours.

I re­mem­ber in the first Af­con I cov­ered, the 2013 edition, I was based in Dur­ban. Bafana Bafana played their last two matches there. Their third match was against Morocco. They needed just a draw to make it into the last eight for the first time in over a decade.

The goals weren’t forth­com­ing from the strik­ers. Siyabonga Sang­weni took the re­spon­si­bil­ity, bril­liantly beat­ing two de­fend­ers be­fore curl­ing a goal that would make any striker en­vi­ous. I screamed like I was the one who had scored, jump­ing to cel­e­brate with Neil Greig who was sit­ting next to me.

I hadn’t spo­ken much with Neil be­fore that goal but that mo­ment was too good to ex­pe­ri­ence alone. Sadly, I haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced such mo­ments in Gabon be­cause Bafana Bafana aren’t here. Zim­babwe were our hope and they got clob­bered by Senegal. But still, they are here and we aren’t. I have been mis­taken for a Ghana­ian. I didn’t bother to cor­rect them, es­pe­cially dur­ing a scram­ble for in­ter­views in the mixed zone.

“Please speak to these jour­nal­ists, they are your peo­ple,” Ghana’s me­dia of­fi­cer im­plored Jor­dan and An­dre Ayew right af­ter the Black Stars qual­i­fied for the quar­ter-fi­nals. My ‘Ghana­ian’ be­hind stuck with that group and didn’t budge.

Watch­ing a ma­jor tour­na­ment with­out your coun­try hurts. I have lost count at how many times I have been asked why Bafana aren’t here af­ter peo­ple re­alised that I am South African. One vol­un­teer asked with a con­cerned look. He told me that his un­cle named his truck Bafana Bafana be­cause of how much he liked the team that reached the fi­nal back-to-back in 1996 and 1998.

I for­got to ask how his un­cle’s truck looks now. It’s prob­a­bly run down like Bafana Bafana, or dead. We des­per­ately need a Mr. Fixer to take us back in the days that saw a Gabonese name his truck Bafana Bafana with­out even un­der­stand­ing what that word meant.

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