Sunday World (South Africa)

Bafana need support of the nation

No one else will love our national team on our behalf

- Tumo Mokone Sports Sermon

On one cloudy day in December, I had put on my bright yellow Bafana Bafana jacket for a casual gathering with the guys. One of them made a mocking comment about the value of wearing Bafana merchandis­e.

“That team is useless,” he said as he harshly drove through his point.

I argued that Bafana Bafana do not only represent the country in internatio­nal football, but they are South Africa itself. And that we the citizens of this country are duty bound to support our teams. “To hell with patriotism, these guys are useless,” he slapped back.

Another member of the gathering joined in and said I must accept that it’s a waste of time to back Bafana because “they do not win anything”.

But our team is preparing for the Africa Cup of Nations starting this month; what can be bad about that?

His response? When did they qualify; when and where is the Cup of Nations?

For the record, the 2023 Afcon will be staged in Ivory Coast from January 13 to February 11. The tournament was initially billed for June-july 2023, but that period is in the middle of the rainy season in Ivory Coast. So, to avoid unplayable conditions in the middle of the West African country’s notoriousl­y wet season, CAF decided to move the tournament to early this year.

My friends’ ignorance about the progress of Bafana and football developmen­ts in Africa has become a new norm for South Africa. A disturbing­ly huge chunk of SA’S population is more concerned about events in European football than in Africa. Locals know about fixtures of the Uefa Champions League, but hardly know anything about CAF Champions League matches, even when the fixture week includes SA clubs.

Local football, as a result, is suffering because it no longer commands the kind of numbers to even sustain clubs financiall­y. Sponsors have backtracke­d because who would want to support a product that fails to attract spectators at the stadiums? Times are hard even for corporates, who no longer rake in profits like before. However, if the stadiums were full for the local PSL matches and Bafana games, that would be enticing enough for some brands to invest with local football.

The falling fortunes of the local football have affected not only Bafana Bafana but all the national teams due to the calibre of talent the country has been producing in recent years. Clearly that’s not the fault of the fans. SA players have dropped the ball regarding commitment to the game. Their lack of passion even to upgrade themselves – technicall­y and intellectu­ally – like their peers on the continent has cost our game. SA players are no longer attractive overseas, and Bafana Bafana are suffering for it.

Compare our talent pool to that of our first Group E opponents Mali and weep.

The Ivory Coast Afcon should spark a change of attitude by all stakeholde­rs in SA football, from the players and supporters to the administra­tors. Despite qualifying for Afcon, Bafana players know the country is angry with them for their lacklustre showing in recent years. It’s time for them to win the hearts of the nation.

Sneer remarks and ignorance about the affairs of Bafana must come to an end now. Let’s unite and give Bafana Bafana the support they need to perform wonders in Ivory Coast. At the end of the day, no one will love our national team on our behalf.

 ?? /Gallo Images ?? Percy Tau and his teammates will do with the support of all South Africans during the Afcon in Ivory Coast.
/Gallo Images Percy Tau and his teammates will do with the support of all South Africans during the Afcon in Ivory Coast.
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