Afcon hope and frustration

This year’s African Cup of Nations (Afcon) was an exercise in hope and frustration. There was not much hype before the event which seems to be attributable to bickering between the Local Organizing Committee and the municipalities of the hosting stadia – they were so involved in their own spat that they seem to have forgotten their mandate to rouse the spirits of the supporting public.

This kind of bickering is not unusual in most sports arenas, but the downside for South Africa, is that it resulted in a very poor marketing campaign.

Many people were sadly unaware of when the tournament started or indeed, where tickets could be purchased. From our perspective, this was the second biggest tragedy of the event. The greatest obviously being that Bafana Bafana did not progress any further. It was not all bad news and frustration though…

The South African national football side were outstanding after their lacklustre start against the minnows Cape Verde. Coach Gordon Igesund has been allowed to stay on a while longer as nati0nal coach and some stability with coaching staff might be just the thing that Bafana need, after a few too many coaching changes recently and some unsuccessful experimentation. A coach cannot establish his style and engage his game plans with a side overnight and we are looking forward to seeing positive results from him and his unit in the future.

Positive play and a greatly improved lust for success gave Bafana a certain shine against Mali in the quarter-finals and fans were able to see the makings of a football team suffering in their international rankings. In contrast, the lads from Mali are ranked 3rd in Africa and a respectable 25th in the world.

Bafana Bafana held Mali to a 1-1 draw after full time and nerves were jangling throughout the stadium, and indeed, both countries. Our local boys have not exactly covered themselves in glory recently, but had certainly brought some much-needed hope back to a nation that loves its football and loves its national sides in all sports. Despite our boys eventually losing on penalties, they should walk away from this tournament with great pride and a sense of possibility and purpose.

Sport is to South Africans what love is to marriage. It allows us all to overlook the battles of everyday life and find solace and nonjudgmental company with our fellow fans. Fans of opposing local teams, of other sporting disciplines and even fans of no sport at all, all see a common goal and a common people. It is indeed a beautiful country we live in when we can all be so spellbound in the magical movement of a beautifully skilfull man with ball that we leave behind our personal prejudices, our tragic past and live only in a wonderful present.

Bafana now look ahead to hosting a World Cup Qualifier against Central African Republic on 22 March. We cannot wait!