It's time for beloved Bafana to step up

24 March 2019 - 00:00 By Sunday Times

If there were a global competition for the most disappointing sports team, the South African senior men's soccer side would be the undisputed champions. There is no other team that masters the art of disappointment with the immaculate ease of our beloved Bafana Bafana.
Cricket's Proteas are a close second. Bafana failed to reach the promised land of Gabon in 2017 in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). The Bafana Bafumblers followed up that lousy act by failing, with colours flying half-mast, to reach Russia 2018 for the globe's greatest football fiesta.
Today the nation holds its collective breath as Bafana line up for their final group match in their bid to book a berth at the 2019 Afcon tournament to be hosted by Egypt in June and July. Bafana, who at some point had qualification firmly in their hands, conspired to undermine their efforts with a shabby showing in which they surrendered control of the group to nemesis Nigeria.
With the Super Eagles having secured their spot for the biennial continental competition with a game to spare, the battle for the remaining qualification place is now between second-placed Bafana and third-placed Libya, who need a victory to leapfrog SA.
Back in the day when the boys were heroes, the nation would be confident that they would return with qualification secured. But with the passage of time, the heroes have turned to zeros.
The team is a pale shadow of its former self. Instead of qualifying on the field of play, we have tended to get our name among the participants via the back door of hosting. But in these difficult times, with our economy floundering, even the government has lost the appetite for providing the country as a stage.
When Cameroon was stripped of the 2019 hosting rights, the SA government did not provide the Confederation of African Football with the guarantees required to win the hosting rights. So it went to Egypt.
The million-rand question is whether Bafana have it in them to change the script and revive their fortunes by not just qualifying but also really competing in Egypt. But first things first: jump the final hurdle. Don't just draw against Libya, beat them. The harder the better.

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