Cape Town - Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula will neither withdraw nor apologise for his scathing comments that Bafana Bafana are a “bunch of losers” and “unbearable, useless individuals”.
He said the whole country has had enough of the national soccer team’s string of poor performances.
At a press briefing on Monday, Mbalula slammed Bafana, the hosts, for being knocked out of the 2014 African Nations Championship (Chan).
He singled out goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs as the reason for the team’s embarrassing 3-1 defeat by African champions Nigeria.
“What I saw there was not a problem of coaching, it was a bunch of losers, who don’t have any respect for this country and don’t have any respect for anybody,” said Mbalula.
“The second goal ... the goalkeeper commits a penalty, alone, single-handedly, and without being assisted by anybody.
“I love Moeneeb Josephs, but I don’t know what was going on with him ... that is a total disgrace, a performance like that. He is a boy from Cape Town and was supposed to shine for the team.
“I’m sure his mother was there, how was he going to explain (it) to her. It was a total disgrace that performance,” Mbalula added.
Josephs, who replaced injured captain Itumeleng Khune, was close to tears when he spoke to the Cape Times and apologised for the blunder, which led to Nigeria’s second goal.
“I should have done much better with the second goal. Those things happen in football and I have to deal with it. I can actually feel it as I’m sitting here now, it’s the worst feeling ever,” Josephs said.
“But we are all human. It’s the worst thing that can happen, but it’s part of football. I have to grow from this. I will have many ups and downs in my life and this is just one of those times.
“I’m really disappointed that I disappointed the country. But I’m sure that some of them will understand. It’s not my intention to go out and make mistakes,” the goalkeeper added.
Mbalula said the “mediocre” display that was seen on the pitch at Cape Town Stadium shocked him and South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan. It was also a sign that Bafana were in a crisis.
Mbalula’s comments triggered outrage on Twitter, with some users calling on him to retract his statement and apologise, while others supported and agreed with him.
The DA was also quick to react, the party saying Mbalula’s comments were “utterly disgraceful”.
“The minister – who is responsible for the promotion of sport in South Africa – should not be shifting blame for the 3-1 loss to Nigeria in (Sunday night’s) match. Instead, as the cabinet member tasked with ensuring that our sporting teams receive all the support necessary to perform at their optimum, should be taking responsibility for the loss,” said DA sport and recreation spokesman Winston Rabotapi.
“Perhaps if he spent less time hobnobbing with celebrities, he would have more time for his job,” said Rabotapi, referring to Mbalula’s penchant for bringing international celebrities like Floyd Mayweather to South Africa.
Asked to comment on calls for Mbalula to withdraw his remarks, the minister’s spokesman, Paena Galane, said “there is nothing to withdraw”.
“The country has also had enough of Bafana Bafana’s performance. The country keeps hosting these events with the hope of improving,” said Galane.
He said football authorities would be meeting with the team to discuss performance.