Cape Town — Let’s get straight to the facts — it’s never acceptable for Bafana Bafana to lose any match 5-0.
And coming up against the world champions in France, you would’ve expected a much more courageous performance from South Africa at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille on Tuesday night.
It was an electric atmosphere at the start of the game, with a 50 000-capacity crowd blasting out a rousing rendition of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, and Bafana belting out Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika as well.
But the South Africans just never got going, and once the outstanding Kylian Mbappé got the show on the road with a terrific opening goal, it was one-way traffic for the rest of the night.
As if the performance wasn’t bad enough, Bafana’s players received considerable flak on social media from their fans for taking selfies with the French stars.
Captain Ronwen Williams — one of the few South Africans who actually made an impact with a number of fine saves — was in the firing line for asking Mbappe for his jersey, and the PSG attacker indicated that he wanted to do the exchange in the dressing room.
The SA goalkeeper confirmed to the idiskitimes.co.za website that he received Mbappe’s top, while striker Fagrie Lakay got the shorts…
Then we saw striker Evidence Makgopa posing for a picture with Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, and the joke on social media was that the Baroka striker “wanted Evidence that he played against Pogba”!
Later, left back Lyle Lakay revealed that he had managed to get the jersey of his French opposite number Lucas Digne, who plays for Aston Villa.
But why all the hate from the Bafana fans for all of this? Let’s put things into perspective. South Africa last played in the Fifa World Cup in 2010, when they hosted the tournament, so they have only actually qualified for the 1998 and 2002 editions.
Their record in the Africa Cup of Nations is not far behind the World Cup one either. Since 2010, Bafana have failed to qualify for four tournaments, and competed at the 2013 (quarter-finals), 2015 (group stage) and 2019 (quarter-finals) events.
South Africa are currently ranked 68th in the official Fifa list, while France are third — behind first-placed Belgium and Brazil in second.
Les Bleus are the current world champions after their 2018 triumph in Russia, and also won the last Uefa Nations League in 2021.
They featured some of the leading talents in the world on Tuesday, including Mbappe, N’Golo Kante and Raphael Varane.
So, what did we really expect from Bafana? To win or draw? Of course they could’ve done better, and some of coach Hugo Broos’ selection decisions were also questionable.
Rushine de Reuck is arguably the finest defender in South Africa, but had to sit on the bench. It was also surprising that someone like Keagan Dolly, who played for French club Montpellier before, didn’t make the starting line-up.
Striker Lyle Foster was given another start after also leading the Bafana attack in the 0-0 draw with Guinea last Friday, so Makgopa should have been given an opportunity in Lille.
But that doesn’t mean that they should now be criticised for wanting to exchange jerseys and take selfies with their illustrious French opponents. It is most probably the only time in their careers that they will share a pitch with such world-renowned stars, considering how dismal Bafana’s results have been in recent years.
There was nothing wrong with wanting a memento such as a photo or jersey from a once-in-the-lifetime experience.
Yes, in an ideal world, you would want the competitive Bafana of old, where the likes of Lucas Radebe, Benni McCarthy and others played for European clubs themselves and were not in awe of players from France, Germany and Spain.
But unfortunately, Bafana are far from reaching those heights at the moment. Let’s hope that Broos can mould this young group quickly, so that they can at least qualify for the 2023 Afcon…