JOHANNESBURG - Sports psychologist Martin Scheepers will have his work cut out for him in his session with Bafana Bafana players on Thursday to get them in the right frame of mind in what has been a chaotic camp.
There have been many sideshows that have distracted Bafana leading up to two must-win 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Senegal, starting on Friday in Polokwane and Dakar on Tuesday.
Itumeleng Khune arrived in camp with a fracture to a bone in his face that forced him to see two specialists and could see him wear a mask, should he get the nod to start in goal.
If he doesn’t, Wayne Sandilands or Ronwen Williams will have to get over their shaky displays in their last encounters with the national team to fill the void left by the most capped Bafana goalkeeper of all-time.
Hlompho Kekana left camp due to a family tragedy that claimed the life of his mother-in-law, while Bongani Zungu and Andile Jali are suspended for the match at Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Tiyani Mabunda was called up to offer cover in central midfield.
Just as things looked settled, Thulani Serero threw his toys out the cot and told coach Stuart Baxter that he will only report for duty if he is promised game time.
Bafana have to get past all of that, and a large sentiment that qualifying for the World Cup is mission impossible.
Scheepers sat in with the coaches on Wednesday and will spend an hour with the players today looking to have a similarly positive impact as he did for the match against Burkina Faso.
“I said it to Itu that this guy has made so much of a difference to us because what he does is take the social stress away from you,” Bafana defender Morgan Gould said.
“He tells you that 'your problem is that you are on social media too much. You expect people to talk good about you there all the time. When people say bad things about you guys, you must listen to what they are not saying.'
"Like for me, let me be honest with you, people have been crushing and criticising me left, right and centre. But what I taught myself is that 'what is that guy, not saying?' If you say to me, ‘Morgan, you are the worst’, at the back of my mind I think that this guy wants me to get to the other side of the fence.
"Sometimes when someone gives you something negative, look at what they are not saying. That’s what that guy taught us.”
Gould has been enjoying a new lease on life with SuperSport United and the national team.
But he is blunt in his assessment that he isn’t playing his best football in his career.
“I was at my best back then but now I am at my happiest,” Gould said. “I am content and happy. Being at your best is something that you can have for a moment.
"You can’t be the best player for the rest of your career. But being a happy player, you can do that for the rest of your life. I am in a space where things are rolling for me because I am allowed to be the person that I want to be."
And he has matured through experiences.
"I’ve grown, endured trials and tribulations, heartaches, pain, tears, joy and blood. I’ve been through it all. I am not saying that I won’t go through it again. But I know how to approach it now. I know how to look after my body I am a very positive person. I do for others more than I do for myself. I think I am at the happiest point of my life.”
That happiness will know no bounds if Bafana qualify for Russia 2018.