Africa’s big guns also struggling
I have received flak from many quarters, with friends from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Ghana and even across Mzansi all berating me, asking me how could I “stoop so low” as to celebrate Bafana Bafana’s victory over a “depleted Gabon” in a friendly match last week.
My detractors and fiercest critics including my colleague Felix Sapao, fail to acknowledge that caretaker coach Steve Komphela sent home Steven Pienaar, Teko Modise, Katlego Mphela and the majority of the “tried and tested” and instead went to war with a relatively inexperienced side.
I am not ashamed to admit that yes I celebrated Bafana’s 3-0 victory. Mamadou Gaye almost spat in the ground and lambasted me for celebrating what he termed “mediocrity!” But it did not matter. I answered him that a win was a win, was a win, was a win and he should just let me savour the moment.
I have said this before, and perhaps let me repeat it again. There are no longer easy games in Africa. The footballing landscape has changed drastically and whereas in the past, so-called super powers would simply walk onto the pitch to elicit fear from their hosts, the opposite is true these days.
Gone are the days when opponents would shiver in their boots at the sight of Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt or Cameroon. These days, Ethiopia, yes the east African Ethiopians, are emerging as serious threats to the so-called big fish of African football.
Namibia recently ran Nigeria ragged before narrowly losing 1-0. Guinea Bissau pushed a full strength Cameroon all the way before they succumbed 1-0 and only last week, Central African Republic stunned the entire continent as they humbled Egypt 3-2 right in Alexandria, Egypt.
Chad humbled Malawi 3-2 and the Harambe Stars of Kenya recorded a 2-1 victory over Togo while Sao Tome ePrincipe of all countries, snatched an unlikely 2-1 victory over Sierra Leone, the same Sierra Leone that had South Africa in all sorts of trouble at the Mbombela Stadium recently.
Okay, I admit that Bafana Bafana have certainly not covered themselves in glory in recent months. They went eight games without victory, registering draws even against opposition where they were expected to sail through unscathed. But except for perhaps Ivory Coast, which other country has dominated their opponents?
Nigeria is struggling and Stephen Keshi is rebuilding a Super Eagles team lacking big name players. Cameroon are going through the motions as well and without the leadership of Samuel Eto’o Fils, they look ordinary and in fact, resemble a frightened doe gingerly treading across a jungle teeming with predators!
South Africa will appoint a new coach by the end of this month. Hopefully whoever gets the nod between Komphela and Gordon Igesund to replace Pitso Mosimane, will take this opportunity to also build on the platform laid on by Steve Komphela last week when he fielded a completely youthful side that ran Gabon off the ground.
I hope whoever gets the job, will use the upcoming friendly matches like the upcoming tie against Brazil and Poland to blood hungry young players who are determined to wear the national flag on their shirt sleeves and let our prima donnas watch how to play with pride when wearing national colors.
The incumbent coach must not panic just because its Brazil and revert back to the old guard that have achieved nothing except to embarrass us with their dance of shame at Mbombela. This is a new beginning and we need to start afresh and build a completely new team. Let us give these youngsters an opportunity to grow so that by the time we host the African Nations Cup, they should have an inkling of what international football is all about.
Tokelo Rantie, Oupa Manyisa, Andile Jali, Mzikayise Mashaba, Eric Mathoho, Siyanda Xulu, Edward Manqele…..those are the future of South Africa and let us not wait until they reach 30 years before we give them their second caps, but let us throw them into the deep end now and see how they swim.