Fans are hoping Bafana Bafana don't make their route to AFCON a difficult one. Photo: BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – We always have to do it the hard way, don’t we? Where South African football is concerned, the simple way is never the preferred route.

I suppose our national teams know that we are die-hards; that we have hearts made of steel and can take the torture of always having to wait until the last minute to know their fate.

Ever since I started covering football - and that is a while back - our national teams have generally taken their time to qualify, be it for major tournaments or to progress into the next stage of a big event.

When we qualified for our first World Cup finals, France 98, we had to wait until the final qualifying match for that Chippa Masinga stunner to ensure our qualification.

Permutations and calculators to check goal differences have been our lot ever since our readmission to the international stage.

No doubt most of you will remember how at the 2002 World Cup we could not fully focus on our match against Spain as we had to keep a watch on what was happening in the other match between Slovenia and Paraguay.

When we qualified for the Olympics for the first time back in 2000, our national team - AmaGlug-Glug - had to go via the play-off route to earn their ticket, Shakes Mashaba’s team having failed to finish in the top two from their continental qualifying group.

Just recently at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt, Bafana left us counting on the other results before we could know if they were to progress to the knockout stages. Their qualification for the self same biennial, continental tournament had seen us sweating as we waited until the final match of the qualifiers to know their fate.

You would think the younger players would have an idea of just how tough it is on the fans to have things taken to the wire in this manner. But our national Under-23 team are clearly learning from their seniors given that they have left it until the final hurdle to try and book their place at next year’s Olympic Games.

David Notoane’s team only needed to reach the final of the Africa Under-23 Championships taking place in Egypt to earn their ticket to Tokyo 2020.

And such was their bright start to the tournament that hope sprang eternal that they would qualify.

But alas, the boys came unstuck against the host team and now have to try and book their place at the global sporting showpiece via the difficult play-off route.

The Under-23s have to beat Ghana to finish in third place so that they will be among the trio of countries that will represent the continent in Tokyo next year.

And so we are here again as fans, waiting on tenterhooks - biting our nails as we hope and pray that our national team comes right.

With Bafana having lost to Ghana just last week, you wonder just where the confidence will come from for the Under-23s to get over this hurdle.

But Notoane has promised his team would have recovered from the defeat by Egypt when they take to the field for the play-off match.

As a fan of our national team, I just wish they find it in them to start qualifying for events via the normal route.

This old heart of mine has been through way too much pressure of weighing up permutations over the years and just cannot take sudden deaths such as this upcoming clash with Ghana anymore.

Matshelane Mamabolo

@Tshiliboy

The Star

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