JOHANNESBURG – Bafana Bafana were all smiles when they walked into Orlando Stadium yesterday afternoon. But when they left the stadium, they were dejected after hearing that Madagascar had also pulled out of playing an international friendly with them.
Barea were supposed to take on Bafana tomorrow at Orlando Stadium as a replacement for Zambia who pulled out of hosting South Africa due to the xenophobic attacks that have hit the country, shutting down Johannesburg and Pretoria. Zambia cited “security concerns” for pulling out, with Zambians disgruntled that they would be hosting Bafana despite what was happening in South Africa to foreign nationals. There were reports of retaliation attacks of South African businesses in Zambia and Nigeria.
The South African Football Association (Safa) was forced to hastily arrange another friendly so that Molefi Ntseki’s charges would get a competitive match before the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers in November, starting with Ghana before hosting Sudan. Madagascar came to their rescue only to pull out at the 11th hour with South Africa slowly becoming a pariah in the eyes of the international community.
South Africa was forced to shut its embassy in Nigeria. The west African nation also pulled out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town.
“It’s actually sad trying to explain what’s happening in your country,” the France-based, Bafana midfielder Keagan Dolly said before yesterday’s training session. “It’s not the first time we have experienced this, to go through something like this with our own brothers is bad. Before we are South Africans, we are Africans. I think that in South Africa we tend to forget that.”
Madagascar cited safety concerns for their withdrawal.
“Madagascar was keen to play this friendly and we agreed with Safa on principle but after what happened in South Africa, Malagasy institutions had a meeting to discuss the matter and then decided not to send the national team to South Africa. The main reason is the security,” the Madagascar Football Association said in a statement.
This means that Bafana will go to their clash with the Black Stars without a competitive match under the new coach Ntseki.
It’s not an ideal start for a coach who won over his players with his promotion after serving as an assistant to Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba and Stuart Baxter.