Come on Bafana, get with the spirit of our old heroes
Too few of us care much any more about the team due to their inconsistent performances, but things can change
Bafana Bafana have an uneasy relationship with soccer lovers. Once cosy, it is now on the rocks and Bafana are well aware that the only way they can repair it is through consistent performances on the pitch.
If they cannot do this, they run the risk of continuing to suffer the ignominy of playing in near empty stadiums. TimesLIVE reported this week that fewer than 8,000 tickets had been sold for Bafana’s crunch 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria at FNB Stadium on Saturday. Safa and Stadium Management SA admitted they were distressed by this.
The poor sales indicate the low level of confidence the exasperated public have in a limping national team that has made a habit of missing out on major continental and international tournaments.
The situation is so dire that the organisers have roped in hip-hop star AKA to provide pre-match entertainment on Saturday in a bid to attract a few more fans.
Compare this apathy to the Telkom Knockout semifinal between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, a club game that was sold out within a few hours.
Bafana Bafana’s chance of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon next year remains in doubt despite the fact that it is a little bit easier to qualify for this tournament because the two top teams in the group go through.
Defeat against the Super Eagles of Nigeria will mean disaster for coach Stuart Baxter and his men who have been so inconsistent that they recently beat Seychelles 6-0 and then failed to score against the same weak opposition in the away leg three days later.
The lack of consistency over a long period of time has caused most people to lose confidence in Baxter. This is the same Baxter who failed in his mandate to lead the team to the Fifa World Cup in Russia, and his problems were compounded when Bafana Bafana were eliminated by Madagascar in the quarterfinal stage of the Cosafa Cup earlier this year.
Bafana Bafana became the laughing stock of the continent and dropped to the Plate section, but they managed to restore some pride by reaching the final where they beat Botswana. This was not enough to appease the fans and rekindle the spark of the relationship as they stayed away for the final in Polokwane.
There is a serious risk that Bafana Bafana fans may be outnumbered by their Nigerian counterparts at FNB Stadium on Saturday in a match that used be a crunch affair given the rivalry that exists between the countries.
Fans used to stream to the stadium to watch coach Clive Barker and the likes of Lucas “Rhoo” Radebe, John “Shoes” Moshoeu, Doctor “16V” Khumalo, Philemon “Chippa” Masinga and others. Nigeria also boasted big name players such as Peter Rufai, Samson Siasia, Augustine Eguavoen, Finidi George, Rashidi Yekini and Stephen Keshi.
Even though Nigeria dominated most of the matches because of their superior international experience, the rivalry was evident and people always looked forward to the match ... unlike now.