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Football | Bafana Bafana

Bongani Khumalo © Gallo Images

'We are here to fight for our country'



Bafana Bafana have something to prove to the nation, said captain Bongani Khumalo on the eve of their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) opener against Cape Verde Islands at the National Stadium on Saturday.

The games kicks off at 6pm and is live on SS4 and SSHD4.

“We're here to fight for our country, although the perception has always been that (Bafana) players are a bit selfish," Khumalo said.

"The guys have shown great courage in opting out of their bonuses and the way we've set that structure.”

He said the Bafana squad wanted to show they took pride in playing for the country after agreeing to accept bonuses only if they reached the knockout stages of the competition.

“That speaks for itself in terms of the confidence we have in each other and the message we're trying to send out there,” Khumalo said.

The Tottenham Hotspur defender, currently on loan to Greek club PAOK, will lead his country for the first time in a major tournament.

He felt grateful for the privilege and said it was a great moment for him and a huge motivation in his career.

Khumalo was part of the 2010 World Cup team which failed to make it past the group stages and said he hoped to draw on that experience.

"The advantage of playing on home soil is that you have the support right there with you.

“I've come out here in a major tournament before – in the World Cup –and now being captain makes it extra special.

He said he'd received good support from the coach, the players and the support staff.

Igesund, meanwhile, said it was unnecessary to motivate his team as their campaign got underway, in search of their first Afcon title since 1996.

“The players are going to be playing in front of 90 000 people,” Igesund said.

“It's the first game of Afcon and everybody is very excited about it and everybody is jumping out their skin to get onto the field."

Cape Verde, the top ranked team in Group A, would present a difficult task for the hosts, according to the Bafana coach.

The tiny West African island outfit are lying 15 spots ahead of South Africa, who are 85th in the Fifa World Rankings, but Igesund said he had done his homework on their opponents.

“We've got a lot of information and I've got a lot of professional people around me including a company which does all our analysis,” he said.

“I've watched all their DVDs and have also got individual tapes of all their players, so we pretty aware of them.”

Bafana Bafana are competing in the tournament for the first time since 2008.

Having finished among the top three teams in the tournaments held between 1996 and 2000, they had not reached the knockout stages of the competition since they were eliminated by hosts Mali in the quarterfinals of the 2002 tournament.

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