JOHANNESBURG - SAFA are flirting with danger again by toying with the idea of taking a coastal team to where they will be most comfortable when Bafana Bafana play their next two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in September and October.
It's like no lessons were learned from the Cape Verde debacle about a year ago, where the lowly side all but ended South Africa’s chances of heading to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. On Monday, the football mother body confirmed that the home fixture against Libya would be played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban next month, while it has emerged they might just leave it up to the coach to decide where they must host Seychelles.
Their statement was, however, a little confusing, triggering a backlash from supporters who haven’t quite moved on from the heartbreak of being embarrassed by a team that had no business doing so. Their social media post was sent in ambiguity, unclear whether the Seychelles encounter would also be heading to Durban in October. But apparently coach Stuart Baxter will make that call instead of the commercial department having the final say.
This would hardly be a conundrum if Bafana were as ruthless as they were in the 90s. Back then it didn’t matter where our national team played and there was less of a worry about all this scientific mumbo-jumbo of putting the opposition at a disadvantage.The secret weapon was not just the performance, but bums on seats, too.
In those days, Safa could play on the equator or the North Pole for that matter and still come back with a positive result. But gone are those memorable afternoons - the association has to box clever. Yet, being cash strapped clearly has its challenges and it comes at the expense of Bafana possibly reaching major tournaments.
About a year ago Cape Verde arrived in a buoyant mood to complete an unlikely double over coach Baxter’s men. The Scotsman had picked a reasonably strong squad to travel to Praia to take on a team largely considered the whipping boys of the group in their quest to qualify for the World Cup.\
With Burkina Faso and Senegal making up the rest of the group, six points were non-negotiable for Baxter, who had taken over from Shakes Mashaba after one match, which was the 1-1 draw away to Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou. Bafana were just not at the races in Praia for several reasons, among them being the fact that there was a bunch of distracted players as their trip to Cape Verde was right in the middle of the transfer window.
Speaking to the winning coach after the 2-1 defeat, Lucio Antunes confidently told this columnist that they were heading to Durban to finish the job. Guess why? Although they would spend at least 14 hours flying to South Africa for this return leg, acclimatising would not be an issue because they would be right by the coast.
Safa should not repeat the same mistakes by hosting Seychelles in Durban because Bafana would be starting on the back foot, as weak as Seychelles are considered to be. Another warning sign.