Steve Komphela has defended his Bafana Bafana players amid suggestions that their barren spell may have been caused by a lack of passion for representing the country.
Bafana have not won in eight matches and, should they fail against Gabon in Friday’s friendly international (Mbombela Stadium, 8.30pm), they would match the national team’s worst sequence without a victory, which was in late 1997 to early 1998.
There’s little doubt that should they equal that nine-match winless record, this already rebuked Bafana lot would draw even more ire from fed-up South Africans, some of whom have questioned their commitment to the national cause.
But Komphela, coming to the defence of players in camp in Rustenburg yesterday, maintained he had no reason to doubt their patriotism and challenged anyone who has evidence to the contrary.
“It is the responsibility of any citizen to see to it that we get rid of a lax attitude from any national athlete,” said Komphela.
“Representing your country should be a privilege and it is natural that if our players are not showing the same results that other sporting codes are producing, there would be questions.
“But we want to emphasise that everybody who’s here has shown passion to represent this country. They know it is not merely about playing – it’s an honour to be here.”
Komphela conceded he faces a huge challenge in Friday’s match against 2012 African Nations Cup quarterfinalists Gabon, who are ranked way higher than Ethiopia and Botswana, the two countries Bafana failed to beat in back-to-back World Cup qualifiers in the last week.
Ranked 49th in the world, Gabon will present a strong challenge to Bafana, who understandably are tired after spending over three weeks in camp. Komphela will require them to give the nation a huge performance in order to “end this cycle of depression”.
“This match comes after we’ve played two huge games. We understand players have been in camp for too long, but we need to give the country a result.”
Komphela has released five players from the squad – captain Steven Pienaar, leading striker Katlego Mphela, as well as Bongani Khumalo, Thanduyise Khuboni and Oupa Manyisa. He knows Bafana have to seek victory to silence Bafana’s critics, while at the same time he needs to find new combinations.
“We have to be logical and realistic. We cannot make drastic and suicidal changes. We will try and give everybody a chance. But we also have to see the likes of May Mahlangu, Eric Mathoho and Lebohang Mokoena.”
Meanwhile, Thulani Serero resumed full training and should be available for selection after sitting out the match against Botswana.