Bafana Bafana will be hoping to get their AFCON qualifying off to a good start. Photo: Foster/BackpagePix
New beginnings excite me. There is something about going into the unknown that gets my adrenaline pumping. The prospects of discovering something new, often about myself is as delightful as it is scary.

Having covered football for as long as I have, well over two decades, I’ve seen it all. So, the love for the beautiful game has waned a bit - road running now my No 1 sport.

But there is no sport like soccer, is there? And given our senior national team’s propensity to change coaches at the alarming rate that they do, new beginnings are the norm.

The appointment of a new Bafana Bafana coach is almost always met with mixed reactions, albeit predictable ones. The local versus foreign debate rages non-stop, with that good-old line of ‘cheap option’ always dropped in whenever a local coach is appointed - until it all becomes slightly tiresome.

Molefi Ntseki has remained nonchalant amidst all that since he took over from Stuart Baxter. And while he has already won a match in charge of Bafana Bafana, that 2-0 friendly defeat of Mali in the Mandela Challenge in Port Elizabeth, Ntseki is only too aware that his Bafana debut is tonight.

It is for this reason that I am excited. A new Bafana era begins this evening at the Cape Coast Stadium when South Africa begin the qualifying campaign for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations against Ghana.

What chance Ntseki will bring us the kind of excitement we got a few years ago when Baxter marked his return to the squad for a second stint with that glorious maiden victory over Nigeria, in their own backyard?

I believe he can. I believe that this Bafana team can get the better of the Black Stars in their own backyard just like Trott Moloto’s squad did in 2002 at the Kumasi Stadium when they sent Ghana packing out of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Like Moloto, Ntseki has come through the ranks of local football.

Ntseki is a student of the game and a brilliant man manager who appears to have already secured the buy-in of his players. Images and footage from Bafana’s training sessions since he took over have generally given the impression of a happy camp with players seemingly enjoying the freedom he has given them to play to their strengths.

If there is one thing that many of the foreign coaches who have previously led our national team failed to get, is that South African players hate being shackled. Let them loose, allow them to play to their strengths - within a structure of course - and most importantly assure them you believe they are superstars and Bafana Bafana will dazzle.

Clive Barker got that right and we all know what he achieved with Bafana. When he coached the national Under-20s and the Under-23s, Shakes Mashaba succeeded because he made the players believe they were the stars of the sides.

Where Ntseki is better than those coaches is that technically and tactically he is more astute. Add his teacher experience which means he knows how to deal with different personalities - among them no doubt spoilt brats - and you have a recipe for some good times returning to Bafana.

It has been a while since I’ve been excited about Bafana Bafana. But I am this time around and when I sit in front of the television tonight to watch them take on Ghana, it will be with the excitement of a new - and dare I say successful - beginning for our senior national team.



The Star

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