RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07,Bafana players during the South African National soccer team training session from Royal Bafokeng Sports Complex on June 07, 2012 in Rustenburg, South Africa Photo by Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images

Just the mention of Bafana Bafana inspires a roar of laughter that wouldn’t be out of place at a stand-up comedy show these days.

And that, in essence, is what the national football team has become. A joke.

The excuses, the epic failures, the steady stream of overpaid farts that come in with Lazarus-like promises, and leave with bulging pockets have all contributed to the decline of Bafana on our list of priorities.

During this week’s media welcome function ahead of the Springbok and England rugby series, a sponsor’s representative, who may have been suckling at the free amber nectar for a little too long, expressed his deep sense of pride at being associated with the country’s three big sporting codes.

He started with the Boks, and how much anticipation there was for the series that started yesterday. Then he spoke of the Proteas, who will also lock horns against the queen’s best – and some local rejects – for the title of world’s best Test team in a month or so.

He then tried to name the third source of national pride on the sporting arenas of the world. Sadly, he only managed one “Bafana” out before the room erupted.

No one likes a loser. But worse, everyone laughs at the loser who thinks they are infinitely better than they really are. For too long, Safa and their hangers-on have told anyone who cares that we are one of the top football nations in Africa.

The truth, though, is that we have become the England of Africa. Full of self-pride, yet desperately short of much substance on the field.

Heck, even the best of Britain have swallowed their pride and realised that with the likes of Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll in their ranks, a quarter-final spot in Euro 2012 would be a decent achievement.

South Africa’s place in Africa was put in perspective by the drab draw with Ethiopia. Yes, that giant of African football. Can you name one Ethiopian player? Just one.

How about their coach, or their greatest ever footballer, maybe?

Precisely. No-hopers of the football landscape, absolute minnows of the sport, fancy their chances against our lot.

Forget the bumbling Pitso Mosimane, whose greatest claim to fame will be landing the biggest settlement in our footballing history, our football is in crisis.

We need a man who can restore pride in the national jersey. Not the fickle pride associated with the 2010 World Cup. No, that disappeared as quickly as our team did from that tournament.

What we need is the sort of pride that sees die-hards still sporting the original Bafana shirt, from the hallowed days of Sizwe Motaung and Lucas Radebe on either flank.

I ran into one a few weeks ago, worn by an old bullet at a shopping centre. When I asked the old man why on earth he was wearing those colours, he said it reminded him of a better time, when Safa was run by heroes like Sticks Morewa, and coaches knew how to get the best out of their players while earning peanuts compared to the fortunes of today.

Even when Bafana were getting hammered 4-0 by Zimbabwe and Nigeria, there was hope that the lessons being learnt would come in handy down the line.

Fast forward 20 years, and where has our game gone?

Mosimane was in good company at Safa House. Surrounded by head-in-the-sand types who insist that we are headed in the right direction.

Whoever comes in to replace Mosimane has a heck of a job on his hands. Nevermind winning. Forget trying to remind strikers where the net is. The biggest job the next coach has is to convince the public to start caring about Bafana again.

The crowds, who used to clamour for a mere glimpse of their heroes, are more interested in Idols, Generations and just about anything else that will take away the pain of caring for a team that has perfected the art of failure.

It’s not even a joke anymore. But if we didn’t laugh about it, how many tears would have been shed for Bafana over the past few years? – Sunday Tribune