Bafana Bafana fans enjoying watching the national team. Photo: Supplied
Ah, Christmas.

That wonderful time of year when we look back on the previous 12 months - with a bit of regret-and-rejoice.

Regardless of what sports team or individual you follow, 2017 has certainly been a year of violent ups and downs. It’s been exhausting, and not all the results have been kind on the heart.

So, if we had a beeline to the North Pole, what sporting gifts would we request from the bearded ballie in a red suit, to see us into 2018 with some cheer?

Of course, there are a ton of very specific sporting dreams and hope out there, but let’s confine it to the ‘Big Three’.

I've just watched some of my best friends go through the full range of emotions during Arsenal’s 3-3 draw with those kamikaze pilots called Liverpool.

If ever there was a team that was designed to make you and break you all at once, it must be Liverpool.

I feel sorry for fans of the Reds, because they live in permanent fear of capitulation at the back, even as they thrill millions upfront.

I’ve seen friends pull hair, stop drinking and even go walkabout during a tumultuous Liverpool month. You have to be made of stern stuff to back them, Klopp and all. The Arsenal lot also seem to yo-yo between measured and messed up, but they seem to have accepted their fate. It is what it is.

Then again, as South African sports fans, 2017 has pretty much turned us into some rainbow nation version of the long suffering Liverpudlians.

Between cricket, rugby and football, there has been precious little in the way of glory, nor an abundance of genuine joy for 2017.

Yes, there were the super Sevens, ably managed by Neil Powell, but even their season feels a touch unfulfilled without a title on home soil. Maybe in 2018, lads.

But, beyond the buggers backed by Steinhoff, we have big challenges to tackle within our rugby structures.

If, somehow, we could sneak a late request to Santa, the collective wish would surely be for the Springboks to restore pride in that jersey. It hurts most of the country when they lose and, regardless how often it happens, it’s not a pain most fans can brush away easily.

So, wish one would be for Santa to deliver a game-plan and some common sense at the doorstep of Mr Coetzee.

The second wish would be for Bafana Bafana.

Stuart Baxter already looks a decade older after taking over the reins in 2017, but that is the nature of our misfiring, football beast.

For Mr Baxter, the wish is simple. Bless him with a single striker who can stay fit and hungry and, more than that, can finish off chances with aplomb. Goals remain the most priceless commodity in local football, destined to rise in value with every goalless draw chucked into the melting pot.

Finally, for our cricket wish, we can only hope that the returning stars - Messrs De Villiers, Steyn, Morkel, Philander - can stay fit and fire on all cylinders.

If they can do that, to a man, the visits of India and then Australia to these shores may be some of the greatest contests we’ve seen at close quarters.

And that would be enough for most South African sports lovers to live with. We wouldn’t want to swamp Santa with a ridiculous list of sporting fairytales, because the big man has a lot on his plate.

Just a Bok team with direction, a Bafana team with an actual goalscorer, and the Proteas to stay fully fit and focused on stuffing both India and Australia. That will do us.

Oh, and maybe, just maybe, one more Major for Tiger Woods. I’ve been a good boy this year, so go on, Santa!

Merry Christmas, folks.

Sunday Tribune

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