Bongani Zungu of South Africa is challenged by Wilfred Ndidi of Nigeria during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals in Cairo, Egypt. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Bongani Zungu has called on South Africans to come out in their numbers at Orlando Stadium on Saturday to support Bafana Bafana who plan to use their international friendly against Madagascar to heal a divided country.

Bafana were supposed to be flying out to Lusaka today to take on Zambia on Saturday, but those plans have been shelved due to the xenophobic attacks that have shutdown Johannesburg and Pretoria that has seen mobs loot and burn stores belonging to foreign nationals and South Africans.

The South African Football Association (Safa) was forced to scramble for another opponent on short notice. They eventually got Madagascar, which could be a blessing in disguise should Mauritius beat Sao Tome and Principe in their qualifying match to be in Bafana’s group in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers. Ghana and Sudan complete that group.

“I hope that people can come and watch, and maybe we can use the game to try and bring the nation together by playing good football and also spreading the message of trying to find peace in our country,” Zungu said after Bafana’s training match against Moroka Swallows at Dobsonville Stadium yesterday.

Percy Tau and Bongani Zungu are welcomed by fans during Bafana Bafana's arrival back from the AFCON Tournament. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

The East Rand, where Zungu hails from, has been heavily hit by these violent outbursts.

“I heard some stories,” the lad from Duduza said. “It’s worrying. Every day, I have to call my family, ask them what’s up and if they are OK. It’s stressful. I hope that things can be better.”

There are reports that Zambians are retaliating by attacking South African stores in their country. The mood in Zambia was tense with Zambians in South Africa allegedly behind the call for the cancellation of the friendly.

“We spoke about it before the cancellation was confirmed,” Zungu said. “We were asking ourselves, are we going to be safe in Zambia? I have seen on social media that those people and Nigerians are fighting. When it was cancelled, it was sad because we wanted to play but at the end of the day safety comes first. I just hope that the (South African) government sorts it out.”

The training match against Swallows, which Bafana won 6-0, gave a glimpse into what Molefi Ntseki’s tenure will be like. Despite fielding two line-ups, and Swallows changing their XI three times, Bafana consistently played with an offensive team that featured a three-pronged attack. Zungu believes that Ntseki’s promotion from assistant to head coach will be seamless.

“It’s always difficult when a new coach comes, especially a foreign coach,” Zungu said. “When we had coach Stuart (Baxter), he understood us as players because he had been in the country for a long time. It was quite easy. Having coach Ntseki now has ensured continuity, he understands us as players. He plays us in our comfortable positions on the field.

It’s a happy camp and things are going well. He wants us to play our game, he emphasises a lot on how to press when we lose the ball. That’s been a problem in Southern Africa. We lack certain aspects tactically.

We can play football and go forward with speed, so he is helping us improve on our weaknesses.”

Football Reporter