12 April 2009

The good old days...

Bafana Bafana. Many South Africans cringe when they hear these words. It is a sad fact that at the moment, in a sports mad country like ours, Bafana Bafana is the one national team of ours that doesn't measure up to world standards. Our cricket and rugby are both near the pinnacle of the world game. Our football team however comes in at a lowly 77th on the FIFA World Rankings.

2010 is now around the corner. If 2010 is around the corner, then Confed 2009 is a couple of houses down the street. Stadia, beautiful, splendid stadia, are nearly ready for these global showpieces and will be ready in time. They are houses of excellence and I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that the stadia we are building for the 2010 FIFA World CupTM, will be the greatest ever set of stadia used in a FIFA World Cup. They are absolute masterpieces, and as they near completion, my job as a blogger on this blog is almost done...

Not quite. My job now is to heighten excitement in the lead up to the World Cup. This tournament is, for many South Africans, a once in a lifetime experience that needs to be grabbed with both hands.

But what makes an experience? What made the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted on our soil the amazing, unforgettable experience that it was for millions of South Africans? What made Afcon 1996 so outstanding? Our national teams performed. In a tournament on home soil, for that tournament to be a success, the national team must perform. The Cricket World Cup 2003 was a bit of a damp squib in the end. Why? Because The Proteas were knocked out in the first round.

The national team must do well. Bafana Bafana must do well and all South Africans need to get behind them.

Impossible, the sceptics say. Not quite. Deeply entrenched within its mind, our national football team has the ability. It was written off before Afcon 1996. It went on to win. It qualified for our first ever FIFA World Cup in 1998, at its first attempt. It has lost in the dying minutes to top teams like Spain, Brazil and others. It has beaten top teams. It has the ability. That ability needs to be reawakened like a sleeping giant that rises up and takes on the world. Our team needs to be reminded that it can perform on the world stage. We need to be reminded that our team can perform and win.

What better place, what better time than now. Now on home soil, in these tournaments, let all South Africans get behind Bafana Bafana like we all got behind the Springboks in 1995 (Another team that was written off before the tournament). Lets get that fairytale going again. Teams are able to rise to the occasion when playing for the hearts of so many people. We saw that in '95 and '96, we can see it again.

I was pleasantly surprised to turn on SABC 1 yesterday to watch the final in our Afcon '96 victory. We played with a passion. We had a passionate coach in Clive Barker, who was whole-heartedly committed to the national team's cause. There were no vuvuzelas! People were chanting, singing Shosholoza to the rhythm of South Africa's rhythmic play. The good old days. South African football at its peak. 80 000 jubilant fans at Soccer City. Lets see that again. Lets get behind our team in Confed later this year and the World Cup next year. If we do this. If we show our passion, these guys will rise to the occasion. They will do us proud.

Eric Tinkler. Man at the back of the Nations Cup victors.

Mark Fish, centre in this pic, was central defender in '96.

Neil Tovey recieves the trophy from the great Madiba. Mention needs to be made of his height. One of the main problems with the current Bafana Bafana team is the lack of height especially at the back. Central defenders need to be tall to win balls in the air. The '96 Nations Cup victors had Neil Tovey, Mark Fish, Eric Tinkler and Lucas Radebe at the back, all well over 6 feet tall. Here Tovey is standing next to Madiba, who I checked up is about 6'3". Tovey is only just shy of that height. Perfect for central defence.

Another current problem with Bafana is the lack of a tall striker to act as a target man, someone who can win balls in the air in the box. Phil Masinga was that target man in 1996. As with Tovey, he measures up well to Madiba, standing about 6'3".

Look at this pic. If you thought Masinga was big, Mark fish is at least 2 inches taller than him. A successful football team has big, tall men at the back, at least one tall striker and tallish men at centre-mid. The shorter, quicker guys are to be found on the wings. In '96, size was no problem with guys like Tovey and Fish taking no prisoners. Currently we lack size. We cannot be taken seriously as a football team until we get a few more big men.

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