A South African soccer fan looks on after her team lost to Mali during their African Cup of Nations (Afcon 2013) quarter-final soccer match at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban on Saturday night.

Most journalists have hyperactive minds when there’s lots of sporting or generally newsy action happening.

So there I was sitting on my sofa on Saturday night, watching Bafana Bafana take the lead in their Afcon quarter-final against Mali.

And as Mali fluffed a few chances and South Africa surged forward time and time again, I thought of our Monday back page and what headline I would write if Mali, indeed, missed a golden chance, perhaps during normal playing time, or better still with the last kick of a penalty shoot-out.

Just then the words of a famous song popped into my head and I had it!

Good Golly… miss Mali!

Now for the benefit of younger readers, this was a song (Good Golly, Miss Molly) made famous by the legendary Little Richard in 1958 and revived by British group Swinging Blue Jeans in 1964. I thought it was a pretty good headline – what a pity it never worked out that way.

I know penalty shoot-outs are a lottery, and often it’s a guess by the goalkeeper as to which side to dive as the kicker runs in. Yes, our penalty takers were not the best.

But those football fans who watched the Champions League final last year, when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich, will remember players of a far higher calibre missing kicks in that shoot-out.

One of the finest midfielders in the world, German star Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Chelsea’s Juan Mata were among the culprits, while in extra time Arjen Robben had his penalty saved.

Even Lionel Messi missed a penalty in a previous round against Chelsea – and that never happens.

Therefore we can forgive Messrs Dean Furman, May Mahlangu and Lehlohonolo Majoro for their failure to convert.

So we are out of Afcon, but personally I think we did well and punched above our weight, given our world ranking, which is about 60 places lower than Mali.

The dream is over, but at least Gordon Igesund and his men showed spirit after that dreadful opening game against Cape Verde.

It seemed like 1996 all over again. Moses Mabhida became a cauldron of emotion and passion as South Africans of all races joined in the support for a team who did start to play some pretty decent football.

As our country is often obsessed with race, I was personally thrilled at the reception given to the only white player, Dean Furman, whom most of us had never even seen until a month or two ago. He plies his trade for English third division club Oldham Athletic.

And like some white Bafana heroes before him, such as Neil Tovey, Eric Tinkler and Matthew Booth, Furman has become a kind of cult hero, getting huge roars every time he breaks up an attacking movement or passes the ball well.

It showed me yet again that when it comes to sport – and especially football – our fans (mainly black) enjoy watching and supporting players of different hues, whether we all win together or lose together.

Madiba and Francois Pienaar first said it and now Bafana’s performances in Afcon have again proven that sport can unify a nation.


Of course there were others in the Tarr household also upset at the result and living where we do – just 300m from the stadium, we feel like we are part of the game.

Just a pity the TV is about four seconds behind the game’s real time, because when we hear a roar, we know Bafana have scored (or missed), even though we only see the action moments later.

Anyway, it was a sad farewell to daughter who today left for Pretoria to complete the final year of her sports science degree.

Son is still living at home and in a few months will return to the south of France to again chase some euros.

It’s great having them around in the holidays. But it’s also great when they leave for a while and the house is suddenly quiet (and tidy) and I get the remote control and kitchen utensils all to myself. After a day or two, of course, I am missing them madly.

All parents will know what I mean…