By the time you read this, Bafana Bafana will have played their first 2024 Africa Cup of Nations Group E first match against Mali.
Neighbours Namibia as well as Tunisia are the two other teams in the group, where the top two are guaranteed a place in the knock-out phase.
The Afcon, like other major sporting events, is an opportunity for the nation to unite and rally behind our troops.
It has been mentioned time and again that when our teams play in continental competitions, the experience is no bed of roses. The conditions are harder than the actual opponents on the field.
The players and officials are met by hostility from the time they land on foreign soil, at times even denied an opportunity to fully prepare for the games.
However, what these nations have, which we in South Africa lack, is the support for their national teams.
From the moment coach Hugo Broos picked his trusted players for the tournament, critics, among them the football legends, have had a lot to say. Others went as far as predicting that Bafana Bafana would return home at the completion of the round-robin phase.
But South Africans have over they years proven that “we are stronger together”. Rugby World Cup winning captain Siya Kolisi and John Smit before him spoke of the support of the “millions back home” when on the road to victory.
Bafana Bafana deserve the same support. Yes, the boys must prepare to die with their boots on; they owe the nation that much.
But to blast everything from the coach and preparations to the selection of players even before the sound of the first whistle is self-defeating.
Let us rally behind the boys, and only slam them should they not play with heart or show dedication to the Protea badge on their match-day shirts.