DURBAN – Excuses have been synonymous with Bafana Bafana in the past few years.
Success has eluded the senior national team for a while. The impasse for Bafana has been attributed to various reasons, and many excuses have been put forward for their failure to qualify for the major tournaments.
But they can complain about everything this time around, except the pitch when they face Libya in an Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) match at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday at 3pm.
It is in immaculate condition. The groundsman at Mabhida, Sifiso Mazibuko, even went as far as saying they can stage a game today or tomorrow if possible.
“The playing surface is already on a game mode. The only outstanding activity is the marking of the playing surface, which is not a major problem,” Mazibuko said with confidence.
Bafana are heading in to their second qualifier against Libya, sitting in the driving seat having earned a priceless three points away in Nigeria.
“Our countdown is left with few things to work on. We are more focused on our cutting now. We have to make sure we get it to the intended height come match-day. We are near the 25mm which is required for the game. The other target is to get the right colour. We are looking for dark green. As it stands we are working to improve the colour.
We don’t expect to see patches during game. We also want to keep it soft. That’s why we are spraying water on to the pitch twice a day now,“ Mazibuko elaborated.
Such news will be good news for players like Bongani Zungu, Kamohelo Mokotjo and Themba Zwane as they enjoy carpet football.
“In terms of our cutting, we are skipping one day and cut. The day before the match we will cut in two directions. We will cut before the first training session and cut again during the day of the match. We are doing that because we want them to get the similar space they had during the training session. Currently we have two types of grass. We have Cynodon gluff green and Cynodon dactylon,” he added.
The iconic stadium in Durban hasn’t staged a football match since the massacre in May where Kaizer Chiefs supporters stormed on to the pitch in anger as they witnessed their team succumbing to an embarrassing 2-0 Nedbank Cup semi-final defeat to Free State Stars.
“The playing surface was not affected. Other assets were affected, but not the pitch. No damage was done to the pitch,” Mazibuko explained.
Mazibuko, who was born and bred in Escourt, has been doing his job for 15 years. He started as an operator in 2002. In 2004, he obtained his turf management certificate. Mazibuko has also worked at Orlando Stadium and Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Asked about the challenges he usually encounters in his job, Mazibuko replied: “I feel the pressure during the captain’s run. Every coach wants everything that can assist him to win the match. A small mistake is reflected as sabotage. Others interpret it as something that is done intentionally. During the captain’s run everything must be in order.”
The last time Bafana played at Moses Mabhida Stadium, it was a disaster. Bafana succumbed to a 2-1 defeat against minnows Cape Verde in an Afcon qualifier.
“Bafana wants the ground to be soft because other countries are not used to such conditions,” he concluded.