Memory lane will not change the fact that Bafana Bafana are terrible

Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of Bafana Bafana’s African Cup of Nations (Afcon) victory in 1996 but MICHAELSON GUMEDE is frustrated by the nostalgia when the reality is so bleak.

I am sorry to be a party pooper – but why are we reminiscing about years gone by? Yes, we won it 20 years ago, but what about the 20 years of mediocrity that followed? What have we done as a so-called African powerhouse? Let us walk down memory lane, and no, not on the smooth road of our imagination; let us use the gravel road of reality.

The FIFA rankings were released earlier this week, and Bafana moved up one whole place. We rank 73rd in the world and 16th in Africa, while Cape Verde – a country that cannot even be considered a South African province in terms of their population – ranks second in Africa. It is mind boggling how a country with the kind of infrastructure and money that we have ploughed into the game, as well as having the best league in Africa, fails to perform at the highest level. It is frustrating to see a nation like Egypt ranked above Bafana. The Pharaohs declined to a point of no existence, came back, and still they have surpassed Bafana.

How many times have we qualified for a major tournament? Time and time again, we’ve had to depend on other teams not to qualify, in order to guarantee our space in a tournament. Do you remember Itumeleng Khune & Co celebrating a victory dance that turned into a dance of shame within a blink of an eye?

And when the football gods do smile upon us, and we qualify, we fail to make it out of the group stages. Remember Egypt 2006 and Equatorial Guinea 2015? We also missed out on Germany 2006, Afcon 2012, Brazil 2014, and the African Nations Championship 2016. Are we going to make it to Russia 2018? The last time we qualified for a world cup was in 2002.

In 2006, we celebrated ten years of winning the Afcon cup here at home, while other teams were battling for world glory in Germany. It has now been 20 years, and other nations are battling it out for glory in Rwanda at the African Nations Championship, while we are here, going through our archives. One wonders what the situation will be when we mark 30 years. Are we going the same route as England? The country that has arguably the best league in the world, but always reminisces about their 1966 world cup victory (by the way, they are marking 50 years).

Safa has explored almost all avenues, hired and fired coaches, both local and international. They even went as far as hiring a non-English speaking coach, and still it’s been disastrous. Who remembers the Carlos Alberto Parreira fiasco? The Brazilian world cup-winning coach who dropped us and recommended his compatriot, Joel Santana (who had no international coaching experience) to take over the reins before he infamously returned to the hot seat – only to fail us once again.

The national team is not a platform for coaching staff to be groomed; it is a position that deserves to be occupied by experienced coaches, and nothing less should be considered.

Perhaps it is time for Safa to hire a coach who will have a long-term commitment to the job. This has proven to be a champion move. When you think of Germany’s Joachim Löw and Spain’s Vicente de Bosque, all you can do is applaud. The gentlemen have been in charge of their national teams for ten and eight years respectively – their achievements speak volumes.

Although Spain are in decline, they made it all the way to the top with one coach. In our case: we went up, came down, and stayed down. When are we going to “reclaim the glory”? It is depressing.

Egypt sang from the same hymn book. The Pharaohs had Hassan Shehata for seven years, and they won three straight Afcon titles between 2006 and 2010 – take a bow, take three bows!


But hey, we are stuck with Shakes Mashaba, whose selection is questionable, and he has no captain.

Who can forget the 2010 world cup? Dubbed as a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and is said to be the greatest world cup staged to date. It was truly amazing. However, when reminiscing about 2010, we need to be cautious about having selective memories. Let us not forget that Bafana bowed out in the first round, making us the first host nation to exit at the group stages. The only pleasing memory (on the pitch) is Siphiwe Tshabalala’s opening goal. God bless that left foot.

Our junior teams are doing well, but when are we going to see that great performance rubbing off on the senior team?

The decline is a reality. And it is depressing because it shows no signs of abating. We cannot continue to sugar-coat the football mess that we are in. The status quo needs to change. We shouldn’t reflect on the way life used to be, instead, we should focus on the way life should be, and work towards that.

Come on Bafana.

Featured image via GovernmentZA on Flickr