Four lessons to implement after Bafana’s brilliant Afcon journey

Bafana Bafana head coach Hugo Broos is lifted in the air by his players after finishing third at the Africa Cup of Nations. Picture: Sia Kambou / AFP

Bafana Bafana head coach Hugo Broos is lifted in the air by his players after finishing third at the Africa Cup of Nations. Picture: Sia Kambou / AFP

Published Feb 11, 2024


Bafana Bafana exceeded expectations finishing third at the Africa Cup of Nations, despite the team being hopelessly under-prepared through no fault of the technical staff.

Hugo Broos’ team went down 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out to Nigeria on Wednesday night, following a 1-1 draw at the end of extra time.

But Bafana finished the tournament on a high note by beating the Democratic Republic of Congo in the third-place playoff on.

Here are four Bafana takeaways from the Afcon in the Ivory Coast...

1 SAFA-PSL impasse must end

Safa are the guardians of the national team, although the bulk of the squad is drawn from the Premiership.

Safa need the co-operation of the Premier Soccer League on various fronts for the benefit of the national team. Safa also need to be able to tell the PSL, through its technical staff, what is best for the national team.

Presently, the PSL are a law unto themselves and will not help to ease the plight of the national team. They won’t end fixtures timeously ahead of the international window so that the national team will have adequate time to prepare for matches.

The PSL have stifled every attempt to have Broos meet club coaches so he can share his thoughts on his plans to groom the national team. The Belgian mentor wants club coaches to know how he plans to use their players.

The government dare not intervene because South African football will fall foul of Fifa regulations. However, the government can play a role in the background, as they do in encouraging transformation across sporting codes, without incurring the wrath of world bodies.

Unfortunately, soccer has powerful figures and the government won’t dream of intervening behind the scenes.

2 Safa cannot neglect their duties

Bafana Bafana have used the High Performance Centre (HPC) in Pretoria to prepare for matches. Coach Broos needed this facility to train the side for Afcon, but Safa didn’t secure it in time. This is the national team, and the country must give them every chance of succeeding.

Captain Ronwen Williams and his squad also needed suitable opponents for warm-up matches, but again Safa failed, with just a low-key fixture against Lesotho before they travelled to the Ivory Coast.

Apart from the PSL sabotage, Safa also add to the misery of Bafana Bafana because they have let the team down on many fronts. There must be accountability, and Safa must embrace constructive criticism.

It is no wonder that Mzansi fans consider it a miracle that the team reached the Afcon semi-finals.

3 Team building is vital for the future

At the outset of his tenure, Broos felt the national team had too many ageing players.

Some of these older players are also among the most popular in the country, and when Broos first omitted them in his early selections, he became the scourge of local fans.

Yet Broos knew what he was doing. He knew the way forward – after all, he was part of Belgium football’s think-tank that steered them to the No 1 ranking in world football.

Bafana Bafana have been among the Afcon giant-killers, but although Broos is pleased with their performance in reaching the semi-finals, he will be concerned that he campaigned with a squad that has an average age of just over 29 years. Many of the opposition sides average 27 years or less.

Broos won’t have much room to manoeuvre, because there are two World Cup qualifiers in June, against Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Both will be must-win encounters.

4 Corporate South Africa must come to the party

We’ve seen how Sasol have helped Banyana Banyana, and how they have energised the women’s game in the country.

This has been of great benefit to the women’s national team, which recently reached the round of 16 at the Fifa World Cup.

Bafana would do well with a financial injection from Sasol, but the national federation has not attracted sponsorship from top South African businesses.

The national federation needs to consider what they must do to attract sponsors who can finance grass-roots football, schools’ football and academies.

In that regard, Patrice Mostepe has shown the way since his appointment as the president of CAF.