SA football must allow Broos, Bafana time to properly prepare

Siyabonga Ngezana and Ronwen Williams celebrate the opening goal of teammate Themba Zwane aganst Nigeria on Friday night. | BackpagePix

Siyabonga Ngezana and Ronwen Williams celebrate the opening goal of teammate Themba Zwane aganst Nigeria on Friday night. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 10, 2024




Bafana Bafana produced yet another performance full of steely resolve after contending with a host of destabilising factors that were serious enough to cripple their campaign.

Even a seasoned coach such as the well-travelled Belgian-born Hugo Broos was pleasantly surprised by Bafana Bafana’s performance against arch-rivals Super Eagles in Friday’s African 2026 World Cup qualifier in Nigeria.

After their 1-1 stalemate, Broos was moved to say he was immensely proud of the players because they had to contend with several mishaps on the trip to Nigeria. Instead of arriving at their destination on Wednesday evening, the team arrived in the Nigerian town of Uyo the following day.

The choice of Uyo as the matchday venue is very much in keeping with the African tradition of choosing a venue which is out of the way. Nevertheless, the team shook off the effects of the protracted trek with a fine first-half performance.

Even so, the effects of their travel nightmare certainly seemed to have sapped their energy levels in the second half. This is when the team’s mental strength kicked in and held out against formidable opponents.

A glance through the Super Eagles squad will reveal that most of their players ply their trade in many of Europe’s top leagues. In stark contrast, the bulk of South Africa’s squad is drawn from its domestic league.

Man-for-man, the Nigerians are far higher-rated and should make light of their South African opponents. They played in six World Cup tournaments and won Afcon three times.

They have dominated South Africa since Bafana Bafana’s re-entry to the international fold until a few months ago. At Afcon in February, Nigeria relied on penalties to dispose of South Africa in their semi-final clash. Last Friday, Nigeria, with a distinct home advantage, were held to a 1-all draw.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Mamelodi Sundowns’ frequent forays into Africa following its participation in the elite CAF Champions League and the AFL (African Football League), that their players have learnt to cope with the challenges of playing in a hostile environment on the continent.

The bulk of Bafana Bafana's squad is drawn from Sundowns, and they seem undaunted by the frequent doses of cunning and artfulness that rears its head during matches on the continent. Their temperament is rubbing off on the rest of the players, and the whole squad seems to rise above the adversities that confront them.

Over and above these factors, the squad also has to contend with hostilities on the home front, which cannot be dealt with in the foreseeable future. Since he took over as national team coach, Broos has never had a decent opportunity to prepare the squad adequately.

Last week, part of the squad assembled on Monday and two days later flew out to Nigeria. Preferably, the squad needs a full week to prepare for opponents such as Nigeria.

The Mamelodi Sundowns players arrived with an assortment of injuries because the PSL usually plays matches right up to the start of the international window. It means there is no break for players ahead of joining the squad.

Given what Broos has done with this squad, despite the challenges, it is nothing short of remarkable. Let’s hope the PSL consider a change of heart and allow Bafana a fair crack at qualifying for the 2026 Fifa World Cup.

Zimbabwe awaits on Tuesday, and it will require all of Broos and Co’s mental fortitude after another torturous trek back.

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