Stage set for Bafana to reignite 1996 Afcon magic
The Times Editorial; The Africa Cup of Nations picture is not as bleak as it might seem. Unconvincing performances by Bafana, inefficiency in ticket sales and poor marketing have put doubts in our minds about the tournament. Tomorrow night, however, we can turn it around.
The opening portent is encouraging. Soccer City, according to the people selling the tickets, will be a full house. Bafana must draw comfort from that. Home ground will be their single-biggest advantage against the best teams in Africa. If that sounds like an abstract concept - wait until you hear the roar inside the Calabash.
When Bafana won the Nations Cup in 1996 they were not given much of a chance. But they prevailed and home support had a lot to do with it; that, and what is now regarded as a hugely talented team.
The point is that we were similarly sceptical about Bafana's chances in 1996. If there is a lesson from that time in our football it is that the Bafana Bafana of 2013 should embrace this tournament. To do so they need to cast off the baggage that has burdened them since the 2010 World Cup.
Much of that is made up of the vicious squabbling within the SA Football Association, exacerbated by a lack of self-belief in the team and the paranoia of coach Gordon Igesund.
What everyone in Bafana needs to realise - and quickly - is that the country really is behind the team. South African sports fans are always hard to please (just ask the Boks and Proteas) but deep down the affection for the national team is true. So, instead of dismissing the public's representatives (the football media, that is) with contempt, Igesund and his men need to understand that support can never be entirely uncritical.
Questions will be asked by fans and the media, and selections will be debated, but once the game kicks off the support is unequivocal.
Bafana will realise this tomorrow night when the crowd gets behind them. We hope this will help lift the current crop of Bafana players to the level of their predecessors in 1996.