CAIRO – The stunned silence that swept over Cairo International Stadium confused Thembinkosi Lorch after scoring the goal that took Bafana Bafana to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
You could hear a pin drop after the Orlando Pirates star scored against Egypt in front of 75 000 fans. Bafana won 1-0 to set up a meeting with Nigeria on Wednesday.
This win had a ripple effect that was felt on the upper echelons of Egyptian football. The president of the FA Hany Abo Rida resigned after firing coach Javier Aguirre for “destroying the hopes of Egyptian football fans”. The goal was Lorch’s first of the tournament in his first start having sat on the bench in the group stage.
“I was shocked,” Lorch said, describing the silence he heard after his goal. “I thought that it wasn’t a goal. Normally when you score, people are celebrating. It showed that we didn’t have support. But we had to make our supporters back home proud. I am happy.”
The absence of South Africa’s Footballer of the Season in Bafana’s line up was a big topic of discussion. Lorch proved why so many people were calling for his inclusion with an inspired performance. The whole Bafana team raised their game to shock Egypt.
“I was worried about my fitness because I haven’t played in a long time,” Lorch said. “You saw I was cramping at one point. But like I said, the confidence is still there. I just needed the minutes. This goal means a lot, especially for the supporters. That one was for the supporters. They are the ones who were always supporting me, even my family at home. Even my late brother, this was for him.”
Bafana transformed from the poor team they were in the group stage into one that has made the whole of Africa take note by eliminating Egypt, who were chasing their eighth Afcon crown.
“We told ourselves that we needed to soldier on,” Lorch said. “It happens. We didn’t play well in the group stage. The coach told us that we must be positive and encourage each other, play for one another.”
The crowd didn’t faze Lorch even though this was his first appearance at this level.
“We’re used to it, especially me playing in the derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. I told myself that there’s nothing here, you just have to express yourself and play your normal game.”
Bafana have to keep up this performance when they take on Nigeria, who eliminated Cameroon to reach this stage. South Africa’s clash with Nigeria will be an entertaining contest with the history and rivalry between these African giants.
“It’s going to be a tough game, knowing Nigeria,” Lorch said. “They are big and strong. But we will plan for them, like we planned for Egypt. The confidence is there. Everyone believes that everything is possible. We must keep that going for us.”