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Safa ashamed of Bafana's 1996 triumph


Anyone out there who believes that South Africa is proud to have achieved that rare feat of becoming continental champions when they won the African Nations Cup tournament in 1996 to become the first ever-southern African nation to break the north and West African dominance of the competition, please raise your hands.

I have reached the conclusion that we are embarrassed and have perhaps have started to believe the pitiful excuse thrown around by Nigeria that had the Super Eagles been around, Bafana Bafana would never have won it and they would have easily retained the trophy they won in Tunisia two years previously.

Mind you, Nigeria was supposed to come to South Africa to defend the trophy they narrowly won 2-1against a constructed Zambia team. But after Nelson Mandela had ruffled some feathers with his candid comments regarding political activist Ken Saro Wiwa, the Nigerian government barred the Super Eagles from defending the title in South Africa as a form of protest.

Neil Tovey and his gallant troops overcame Cameroon and Angola, but lost to Egypt and yet still topped their group. They then defeated Algeria in the quarterfinals, Ghana in the semifinals and eventually Tunisia in the final to become champions. The envious Nigerians claimed Bafana were champions by default.

Whose fault was it anyway that they were scared to come to South Africa to defend their title? They took a political decision not to come to South Africa and must live with that decision, period. History books will forever show that South Africa are 1996 African Nations Cup winners and Nigeria better come to terms with that.

But I am digressing. I have seen the red jersey of the Egyptian national soccer team and it is emblazoned with seven bright coloured stars above their national logo. I also googled the Cameroonian national team jersey, and I saw four stars occupying pride of place above their logo as well.

I asked myself why, 16 years after we won the tournament fair and square, with Mark Williams grabbing a rare brace on that memorable day at Soccer City, is Bafana Bafana still parading around the world and the continent, without a single trace of a star on their jersey?

Even Tunisia, who won the tournament when they hosted it during 2004, has a bright star on their jersey. It might be a single star yes, but it reminds everyone that at one stage during their history, they have been accepted into the exclusive Boys Club.

I see Orlando Pirates also have a golden star on their jerseys. It reminds everyone that their gallant class of 1995 were African Champions League winners and nobody can take away that achievement from them.

Now why is the South African Football Association afraid and even embarrassed to put that golden star on Bafana Bafana’s jerseys? Who took the decision that the star must not appear on our national jerseys when the class of 1996 earned it the hard way?

Am I missing something here? Is winning the continental trophy and becoming African champions something to be ashamed of? Is that momentous victory beneath us that we do not feel that it warrants the kind of recognition it deserves?

I am mindful of the fact that, during 1996, Bafana Bafana were sporting a crazy zebra-like outfit that seemed to have been designed by Picasso while in a drunken stupor and maybe the powers that be felt that the star wouldl be lost in that mish-mash jersey.

I implore whoever is responsible to own up and confess and I will not influence the minister of sports and recreation, Fikile Mbalula, to lay criminal charges and impeach the culprit. As long as he comes out and confess to the blunder and undermining matters of national importance.


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