DURBAN – Doctor Khumalo, the man who scored Bafana Bafana’s maiden international goal in Durban against Cameroon 25 years ago and went on to lift the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996, is not surprised by the national team’s inability to qualify for major tournaments.

The former Kaizer Chiefs midfielder maestro, now the technical director at Baroka FC, believes that South Africa should go back to basics. 

Bafana failed to qualify for the World Cup again. They needed two victories against Senegal to book a place in Russia next year, but they were easily beaten by the Lions of Tharanga at home on Friday.

Senegal won 2-0 and will be competing in Russia come next June.

“It is not a good feeling for South Africa to lose at home. We thought beating Senegal would give us a chance going into the last match.

“But again let us look at the bigger picture and tell it the way it is supposed to be. Are we doing the right things in terms of getting the national team properly prepared for us to challenge the rest of the world? I don’t think we are.

“Are we empowering the national team coaches at all the levels? We are not. The bottom line is that we need to get our structures together. Clearly there’s something wrong that we are doing, that was done right 20 years ago,” Khumalo explained.

Sadio Mane of Senegal challenged by Kamohelo Mokotjo and Sfiso Hlanti during their World Cup qualifier in Polokwane. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Bafana will have to wait for the next World Cup in 2022 in Qatar to see if they can qualify.

They have missed out in three different Worlds Cup now. They failed to qualify for Brazil in 2014, and it was Stuart Baxter again who was at the helm when South Africa missed out in 2006 in Germany.

Bafana competed in the 2010 Cup as hosts, so the last time they properly qualified for the World Cup was back in 2002 in Japan and South Korea.

“Believe it or not, if we don’t get our act together and our structures together, there’s no way that we can challenge the rest of the world.

“I personally believe that I’m from the school that learnt from the best.

“With us winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 and qualifying for our maiden World Cup in 1998 in France, we learnt from the best through difficult situations, and we have to go back to that.”

Themba Zwane of South Africa challenged by Cheikhou Kouyate of Senegal in their 2-0 loss. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Khumalo worked with Baxter at Chiefs and he recently met with him after he took the Bafana post.

“When you appoint Stuart Baxter, what are your objectives? You have to have your objectives because I met with him, and what he explained to me was more than what I ever thought.

“But I think it is more than the objectives that our association needs. This is an eye-opener for us to plan for the future, not for the moment.

“What I’m trying to say is that let us look at the bigger picture. Are we trying to become a country that wants to be world beaters, or are we just a country adding to the numbers?"

As far as big-time football goes, Bafana will now have to wait for the Afcon qualifiers, which take place next year.

“It is a setback, but we don’t have to be too discouraged. We don’t have to blame our boys and the technical team.

“As coach, I understand how Stuart Baxter and the players are feeling. It was not meant to be like this.

“We have to go back to the drawing board. When on a losing streak like this, it gives us an opportunity to see where we can improve.”

Sunday Independent

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