Bafana Bafana in training at the Clyde Pinelands Sports Club in Cape Town ahead of their Chan opener. Picture: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

Cape Town – You have got to love the Minister of Sport and Recreation. In essence, Fikile Mbalula has the charisma and energy for the job.

He also has that air of a champion about him, that sense of arrogance that goes well with his Louis Vuitton belt and Italian shoes. His voice also seems to carry to every corner of the room when he speaks – it’s loud and clear, and you find yourself engrossed in the message he is trying to bring across.

This package came together when the honourable minister was called in to wish Bafana Bafana good luck for the upcoming African Nations Championships on home soil.

Sitting on the left side of the room with a few other football hacks who decided to brave the 8pm meeting, I curiously noticed that the players were nodding at the end of each sentence that came out of Mbalula’s mouth.

Of course, we all expected Mbalula to quote the great Nelson Mandela. And when he did, it seemed many of the players were inspired and would run through a brick wall to make the nation proud.

I was also feeling more than just a tad patriotic myself, and would have done some serious damage to the Cape Sun’s wall had I’d been in a green and yellow tracksuit on Tuesday night.

The fact is, though, I wasn’t in a green and yellow tracksuit. The best football players in the country – I’m not even the best footballer in my household – were selected to wear the national team’s colours.

That’s why it’s still bizarre that many people believe that Bafana coach Gordon Igesund should have picked a team of youngsters to compete in this tournament.

Chan does lack some of the prestige of an African Cup of Nations and certainly a World Cup, but South Africa is hosting the tournament and therefore Bafana have to go out and win it.

At the end of the day, those same people asking for a development team, would be calling for Igesund’s head if Bafana were knocked out in the first round of Chan. It’s the reason we have had so many coaches over the last decade, because they have handed out so many caps to players who can’t even kick a ball properly.

Igesund has a vision for Bafana, the same kind of vision that saw the Springboks win the World Cup in 2007 and Proteas become the No 1 Test side in the world.

Building a team that know each other because of continuity in selection and an element of stability is what’s needed. Igesund has done well to blend in the latest overseas starlets.

Mbalula called the Bafana players the “the best of the best” in South Africa. That’s just what they are. It’s now up to them to run through the Chan wall.


@IIKHUNE_32_16 (Bafana skipper Itumeleng Khune setting the record straight): Don’t believe the hype. My only focus is on @Bafana_Bafana1 & doing all we can to win the tournament. I have NO training outside of Bafana!

@fizzer18 (Phil Neville, the Manchester United assistant manager, is a tad optimistic): Happy new year all off to bed now-2014 going to be a great year!!!

@DietmarHamann (on Real Madrid’s tribute to Eusebio): Beautifully observed minute of silence at the Bernabeu. Far more impressive and powerful than a minute of applause.


@siphiweshabba: Bafana Bafana star Siphiwe Tshabalala is going to be key if the hosts are going to lift the Chan trophy on February 1.

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Cape Times