Minister urges Bafana to preserve national dignity
Minister of Sports Fikile Mbalula has urged Bafana Bafana to go all out and preserve South Africa’s dignity in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). The event kicks off in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Mbalula said the stage was set for the national team to do the nation proud.
“We have commanded them to go and do work for the country. But if they lose, it is not our baby to nurse and they cannot blameus on the question of support,” he said on Friday.
“We are releasing them to the world to go and showcase our style of football and, psychologically, we will be properly warmed up. Let’s get the party started.”
Bafana open their Group A campaign against Afcon debutants Cape Verde at 6pm at the National Stadium (FNB Stadium).
With years of underachievement still bothering the local fans, it is time for the national team to silence critics once and for all. But this will not be easy as head coach Gordon Igesund is faced with the mammoth task of lifting the gloom out of the team.
It is a no-brainer that the nation has lost hope in Bafana, and a positive result against the lowly ranked and little known Islanders
on Saturday will go a long way towards re-energising the nation.
Igesund and charges are counting on home support to spur them on to conquer Africa, just as it happened in 1996.
Said Igesund: “It would be good to get the crowd behind us all the way. We all know how the supporters helped the team to win the 1996 tournament and we are asking for the same support.”
The former Moroka Swallows head coach said winning the first match was a must as this would set the tone for the rest of the tournament. But he cautioned against undermining Cape Verde and described them as a decent side that is physical.
“I had a good look at them and it will not be a walk in the park for us, but I’m sure we can match them. What will win the match for us is our individual brilliance.”
Igesund said his team should not be judged on the results of friendly matches, but during the Afcon tourney that ends on February 10.
He again poured cold water on the mandate – to at least reach
the Afcon semifinals – given to him by his employer, the SA Football Association, when he took the hot seat in July.
“I want to win. what is the point of reaching the semifinal and losing? I’m emphasising to the players no one remembers the second-best. I’m not saying we are going to win (the tournament) but it is not an impossible task.”
Igesund said he had no doubt that his charges would come to the party with the right mentality.
Bafana have not been convincing – this after they lost four of their previous seven matches since Igesund took over from Pitso Mosimane in July. But Igesund has remained optimistic, saying Bafana will do well.
He kept his starting line-up close to his chest, with the hope of surprising his Group A opponents Cape Verde, Angola and Morocco.