THE CLIP BRINGS HOME BAFANA BAFANA’S NEW­FOUND FAME, AND THAT SOUTH AFRICAN FOOT­BALL IS NOW ON THE MAP. AND ALSO THAT NOW THE COUN­TRY IS ON THE MAP. AF­TER DECADES OF MIS­UN­DER­STAND­ING, THE WORLD IS DIS­COV­ER­ING AND ASK­ING QUES­TIONS ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA, AND AF

Weekend Witness - - Talking Sport -

phe­nom­e­nal achieve­ment.

Car­los Al­berto Par­reira, if he were hon­est, might ad­mit, if not pub­licly then to him­self, that part of Bafana not pro­gress­ing was a smidgen of his own do­ing. (I won’t use the term “fail­ure to”, be­cause like the coach, I don’t see it that way). His tac­tics were spot on for Mex­ico, and only first-half nerves and the post with two min­utes to go from Katlego Mphela’s shot, de­nied South Africa vic­tory.

Against France, the coach had less to get right thanks to the op­po­si­tion’s dis­ar­ray, but he mostly did come up with the cor­rect plan again. Per­haps Bafana could have pushed harder for goals in the sec­ond half. But it is the coach’s style, and was his half-time mes­sage to the play­ers, not to push too hard; to pass the ball around, and the chances will come. Per­haps if Bafana had pushed for­ward too ag­gres­sively, the re­ju­ve­nated French would have won.

Against Uruguay, more bat­tlers in mid­field, a sec­ond striker and mark­ing Diego For­lan closer, as the coach had said the South Africans would, might have helped Bafana’s cause.

Over­all, though it was the coach who made South Africa com­pet­i­tive in the first place to even have these is­sues to dis­cuss. To a man, Par­reira’s play­ers praised the coach for hav­ing in­stilled fit­ness, tac­tics, be­lief and spirit in the play­ers in train­ing camps in Brazil and Ger­many. The play­ers agreed with Par­reira that Bafana now have an iden­tity and a style.

As World Cup hosts you need a spe­cial coach. Par­reira is not per­fect, though none of the coaches at the World Cup is. The coach whose ap­proach is clos­est to per­fect, and who has world-class play­ers at his dis­posal, is the one whose team will win the tour­na­ment. But Par­reira was on a par with any­one he would come across on the touch­line.

The coaches at this World Cup — with the ex­cep­tion of Diego Maradona, who is his own en­tity, a hu­man touched by God, in a foot­balling sense — are hard, in­tel­lec­tual men. Par­reira was able to match the Javier Aguir­res, Os­car Tabarezes and Ray­mond Domenechs. And he did it with less big-name play­ers at his dis­posal.

And now to the fu­ture. Af­ter their per­for­mance at this World Cup Bafana do have a fu­ture again. They have an op­por­tu­nity. Khu­malo, Mphela and Tsha­bal­ala are set to have a chance to de­velop their games at the top level. The coun­try is in love with the na­tional team again. Safa will re­ceive R4 bil­lion in gate-tak­ings from the World Cup that it can plough into grass­roots. Pitso Mosi­mane is a fiery, straight-talk­ing in­tel­lec­tual coach who has learnt from work­ing with a mae­stro, and can take Bafana for­ward.

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is no longer a gloomy prospect, but one filled with op­por­tu­nity. We’ve been in this po­si­tion be­fore af­ter win­ning the Na­tions Cup in 1996. We let it slip. Let this crime not be com­mit­ted again. Mostly though, thank you Bafana for giv­ing the coun­try hope. See the WIVB clip at: http://www.wivb.com/ dpp/sports/top_per­former/Tues­days­Top­Per­former­Bon­gani­Khu­malo

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