Ntseki aware of the 'emotional pain' Bafana have caused to millions of South Africans
Beleaguered Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki says he is aware of the “emotional pain” he has caused to millions of South Africans after the national team failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals on Sunday.
Ntseki's charges were beaten 2-0 by Sudan at Al Hilal Stadium in Khartoum in a result that confirmed Bafana's slide into ignominy.
Many are calling for the coach's head and he conceded that the embarrassing result has caused a lot of pain in this part of the world.
“As passionate South Africans‚ the expectation obviously was for Bafana Bafana to qualify for Afcon and maybe do better than the last time we were in the Afcon [they reached the quarterfinals in the 2019 tournament under former coach Stuart Baxter after knocking out the hosts Egypt in the previous round]‚" he said.
“The disappointment also goes to every South African. I think as players and as coaches‚ we are very much aware of the disappointment‚ the emotional pain we have caused South Africans.
“Also being aware of the pain‚ the pain is more from us because we were there and we were almost in Cameroon [at next year's Afcon finals] because of the points we accumulated along the road.
“Also‚ we need to be very honest with ourselves in terms of the challenges we faced coming to the games against Ghana and Sudan‚ and because of Covid-19 we could not get our regular players for Bafana.
“And again‚ with the players that we brought in, who did very well against Ghana‚ we were looking forward to having those players against Sudan and then they were excused from the team because of injuries.
“We had to start from afresh in terms of bringing in new playing personnel‚ so it is just unfortunate that we are talking about a team that was almost about to qualify.”
The Confederation of African Football took the decision to expand the Afcon tournament from 16 to 24 teams in 2019 and many at the time felt this would reduce the excitement of the qualifiers as it gave the bigger teams more opportunities to guarantee qualification.
But Bafana clearly did not read the script as they failed to emerge from a group that included Ghana‚ Sudan and São Tomé and Príncipe.
“It's a big disappointment for all of us‚” Ntseki said. “If you look at how we started‚ we were very positive and we were looking forward to qualify.
“And I think if you look at the games we won‚ the points we accumulated‚ we became very confident to say we will qualify. The expectations were created to say the team will do well against Ghana at home and Sudan away.
“Drawing against Ghana at home [last week]‚ I think‚ made life difficult for ourselves coming into Sudan.
“We knew coming to Sudan [that it] would be a foreign land with foreign challenges‚ and the travelling also‚ having to travel immediately after the game after one session preparation and then we played a match.
“I think the players tried very hard to put everything together after the analysis of Sudan‚ and also after our own analysis against Ghana and preparing for Sudan.
“I think we started on the wrong foot because we conceded very early. The idea was not to concede because we were fully aware that even before the game started‚ we were in because of the point we had in the bag.
“But we allowed the Sudanese to take out the point we had and they ended up taking maximum points‚ which was a very big setback for us to concede two goals in the first half.
“Even though we missed chances‚ missing chances doesn't win you games.
“We saw what happened in the second half. We approached the game differently and we made tactical changes. We made changes in terms of playing personnel. But on the day we could not get a goal or see ourselves getting an equaliser‚ just to hold back on the point we had before the game started.”
Ntseki was given a mandate by his SA Football Association (Safa) employers to qualify for Cameroon and he is well aware that he has failed to deliver.
“I think the disappointment is not only for us‚ the big disappointment is also for the SA Football Association because as Safa the main objective is very clear‚ the mandate is very clear: to see the team qualify for every continental and world tournament so that we can put Bafana Bafana on the map again in terms of the type of football we play and the results we get.
“So getting positive results also brings improved Caf and Fifa rankings. Not qualifying has dented our image and has also dented the possibility of improving our Caf and Fifa rankings.”