A sombre atmosphere engulfed the Crowne Plaza Hotel conference room in Rosebank as PSL coaches and members of the football fraternity joined the chorus of voices that condemns xenophobic attacks that erupted in the country a week ago.
The astute coaches, whose black attires mourned the upheaval treatment towards citizens from other nationals by local residents, included Pitso Mosimane, Steve Komphela, Cavin Johnson and Wedson Nyirenda, who’s a Zambian international.
In their midst, the panel was joined by Caf representative Kalusha Bwalya, who resides in South African, but Zambian born.
The xenophobic attacks that caused a shutdown in Johannesburg and Pretoria has seen mobs loot and burn stores belonging to foreign nationals and South Africans, but it’s had its negative impact in sport, particularly for Safa.
Bafana Bafana were supposed to square off with Zambia on Saturday in an internationally friendly away in Lusaka, however, ZAF cancelled the match as a protest to the ongoing violence.
Safa were quick to replace the Zambians with Madagascar, who also cancelled the match in the 11th hour as they cited “safety concerns”.
That dire situation mostly affected newly elected Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki, who said he was ready to get the ball rolling a week after permanently succeeding Stuart Baxter but was forced to release the players back to their teams
“What’s happening in our country, it’s not helping our football. As a team, we were looking forward to playing our first match. Unfortunately, our players will be sent back to Europe and their respective clubs without having had the opportunity to play,” said Ntseki.
“We’d love to have played the game because we’d have try to improve on each and every game. I think South Africans are peace loving people. Yes, it happened in the past and we brought it into an end, so I think whatever worked then, will work even now.”
The plus for Ntseki from these friendlies is that he’d have got an opportunity to pre-assess his team before their all-important 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Ghana and Sudan in November.
However, while the issue will be likely be put to bed by then, for Mosimane and his Mamelodi Sundowns’ charges, they’ll be hoping that the disgruntles from fellow Africans towards the dire in country would have calmed down when they continue with their battle in the African safari against Cote d’Or away in Seychelles next Saturday, September 14.
“Jingles”, who’s accustomed his team to being heavyweights in the continent in the last seven seasons, says the predominant relation they’ve built over the years make them fearless in their venture for the second star over their crest.
“You ask yourselves has Mamelodi Sundowns, ever felt xenophobia? Never! We are one in Africa. You know us, we only fight on the pitch and at the stadiums corridors,” Mosimane said.
“But when we leave the stadium, there’s no one that’s following us and trying to throw stones, so that’s just how much we are loved in Africa…when Zamalek plays Al Ahly, they’ll wear Sundowns shirt and vice versa.
With the Fifa break taking precedence, there are internationals that have not been called-up for their national teams, and KwaZulu Natal based coaches Johnson and Komphela says they’ve had to psychologically support them as they’ve feared for their lives and those of their families.