The performance of Bafana Bafana at the 2024 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Ivory Coast has ignited a new-found sense of pride and optimism in South African football.
While the team did not reach the finals, a bronze medal finish at the expense of the Democratic Republic of Congo is something we can all be proud of.
Their remarkable run exceeded expectations and showcased a level of competitiveness and resilience that had been missing for some time. It is clear that Bafana Bafana has finally matured into a team capable of challenging the best on the continent, and this achievement should serve as a catalyst for the South African Football Association (Safa) and the entire footballing sector to push for sustained progress and development.
Coach Hugo Broos and his squad, that consists of mainly locally based players, deserve immense credit for their exceptional performance, which has earned them the respect of not only other African nations but also the pride and admiration of the South African people.
However, it is crucial that the momentum gained from this success is not squandered, but rather utilised as a springboard to address the underlying issues that continue to hinder the full potential of South African football. One of the critical areas that must be addressed is the lack of proper development structures at the grassroots level.
The success of Bafana Bafana at the 2024 Afcon should not overshadow the fact that grassroots development is the lifeblood of any successful footballing nation.
Investing in youth development programmes, nurturing talent at the grassroots level, and providing access to quality coaching and facilities are essential for ensuring a sustainable pipeline of future talent. Furthermore, the issue of goal-scoring prowess at the domestic level cannot be overlooked. It is no secret that South African strikers have struggled to consistently find the back of the net in the Premier Soccer League.
Without addressing this deficiency, the squad will continue to face challenges in international competitions, including World Cup qualifications. It is imperative Safa and all stakeholders seize this opportunity to build on the success achieved at the 2024 Afcon.