Former Bafana Bafana player Phil Masinga wants to see more young players coming to through the national team ranks. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
The 1998 Fifa World Cup was an historic adventure for South Africa as Bafana Bafana made their debut at the global showpiece debut.

They lost 3-0 to France in the group stage, and could only finish third in the group, which saw them miss out on the last 16.

On the other hand, the 1998 event was a turning point for the French team as they clinched the title under then captain and current coach Didier Deschamps.

But more importantly for the French, 1998 marked the emergence of Thierry Henry, who went on to be a world star and a multiple title winner with Arsenal and Barcelona.

Bafana’s 1998 squad member Philemon Masinga, agrees that Henry's emergence was a turning point for French football, and says 2018 World Cup sensation teenager Kylian Mbappe is his successor.

“We enjoyed our first World Cup. Personally, I don’t think we did badly because we only lost against France in the group stage," Masinga said.

“France were also the host nation at the time and they also went on to win the title. France made a revelation of Thierry Henry and he was still young at the time."

In fact, the-then 20-year-old Henry had only made his international debut a year before, in a 2-1 win over South Africa.

“Fast-forward to 2018, they’ve got Mbappe. Countries always have a special player. Be it a period of 10-15 years. Hence, I also think that is possible as well in South Africa."

Bafana exited the campaign early in 1998 but made it to the 2002 World Cup in Korea/South Korea.

But add 20 years to that squad and Bafana have only managed to qualify again through being hosts in 2010.

However, comparing generations is the last thought on 49-year-old Masinga’s mind, although he advocates the mentality of continuity.

“We can’t point fingers on anyone and say this one is better than the other one," he insisted.

“The last time Egypt qualified for the World Cup was 26 years ago, but they had dominated the Afcon (African Cup of Nations) tournament, so those kind of things happen sometimes."

Bafana’s failure to qualify for this year’s global showpiece has added four years to the squad which will have to battle it out for a place in the 2022 finals in Qatar.

On the other hand, the junior national teams have been a source of admiration in continental football this year as Amajita (Under-20s) have already qualified for next year’s Afcon, while Amajimbos (Under-17s) will have to beat Angola today in the Cosafa final to qualify for next year’s showpiece in Tanzania.

As such, the man who scored Bafana’s goal that qualified them for the 1998 tournament believes it’s time to throw the juniors into the senior team set-up.

“I think we should start using these younger players that are qualifying for World Cups," Masinga said.

“They should be given a chance starting from club level. I’d (as a coach) rather lose more games with younger players who I think can give me 12 years of their career.”


Sunday Independent

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