Bafana Bafana coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba has called on the country to support the national team. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Birthday boy Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba was feeling haggard yesterday.

He had just completed a West Africa tour with the national Under-20s (Amajita) as they prepare for the third and final round of the African Youth Championship qualifiers against Cameroon.

There was a photo session with endearing fans before making his way to the media hall. His wife and daughter were waiting patiently as he went through a happy birthday wishes and congratulation messages.

The new Bafana Bafana coach gives his wife a hug, it’s been 18 days that they had last seen each other, and you could tell both were trying to control their emotions.

Mashaba was wiping tears flowing from his eyes when he spoke about his new appointment.

“Reality has now sunk in and I feel the weight of expectation from the public because this is their team,” said Mashaba at OR Tambo International Airport.

“I promise not to disappoint but I cannot do it alone, with your help, South Africa, we will do well for this team. Do not put us under undue pressure and when you criticise us, let it be constructive. Let’s build Bafana Bafana.

“We have a technical master plan – we must be in the top three in African football and in the top 20 globally, and that takes hard work and commitment,” he added.

Amajita drew against Burkina Faso (1-1) and Mali (0-0) respectively and went down by the odd goal against both Senegal and Ivory cost. “I’ll break the purpose of this tour into the following: mentally, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually – the youngsters were tested and came through with flying colours.”

Mashaba is buoyant ahead of the Cameroon match next Saturday. After all, a win in the two-leg encounter will see them qualify for next year’s African Youth Championship in Senegal. - The Stare