Bafana Bafana: A day after the defeat
The host, Bafana Bafana of South Africa, was added to the casualty list on Saturday night by a war-torn Mali to pave the way for an all West African countries’ semi-finals at the on-going 2013 African Nations Cup. Gowon Akpodonor, who is covering the championship in South Africa, captured the mood of the people, especially in the city of Rustenburg in the morning after their darling team was sent packing from the race.
They had everything going for them in the competition- good home support from flag-and-banner-waving fans and financial support from the Jacob Zuma-led government; the Bafana Bafana couldn’t have asked for more. But on a day so much was expected of them, the team failed to live up to the expectation of the people.
After the Black Stars of Ghana managed to grab a semi-final ticket at the expense of hard-fighting Cape Verde, the people of South Africa were full of expectation that the Bafana Bafana would follow suit to make their weekend a memorable one. It was not to be.
Instead, it was the Eagles of Mali and their few supporters that smiled home, thanks to their brilliant delivery in a penalty shoot out, which gave them victory at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in a clash that ended 1-1 after 120 minutes.
Tokelo Rantie had put Bafana Bafana ahead after 31 minutes, but Mali’s inspirational captain, Seydou Keita, levelled two minutes before the hour mark to force extra-time. After a goalless extra-time, penalties were needed to decide the quarter-final tie. There was tension everywhere as only a few fans still managed to blow their vuvuzuela.
A Bafana Bafana player, Siphiwe Tshabalala, scored first and Mali responded. As a Bafana Bafana player stepped forward for South Africa’s second kick, the atmosphere became silent. He missed, while Mali scored. Two other consecutive misses by the Bafana Bafana gave Mali the ticket to the semis, while the host team, their supporters, including President Zuma, went home disappointed.
The exit of Bafana Bafana from the race sent shock waves round the country. In Rustenburg, one of the host cities, where the Super Eagles of Nigeria played their last group game against Ethiopia and quarterfinal against Cote d’Ivoire yesterday, the people expressed high level of disappointment with the Bafana Bafana.
Debi Pretorins is the general manager of the popular Travellers Inn Hotel, where many Nigerian journalists covering the Nations Cup are accommodated. Though, the ever-smiling huge Debi has more passion for the game of rugby, one of the most popular sports in South Africa, but on the day of the quarterfinal encounter between the Bafana Bafana and Eagles of Mali, she pitched her tent with the soccer team with the hope that the players would deliver the ticket for South Africans.
“I was so disappointed with the team,” Debi told The Guardian yesterday. “I stayed awake to watch the match hoping that my country would win, but they failed. It clearly showed the Bafana Bafana team was not good enough. I was actually looking forward to the trophy. Bafana Bafana spoilt my day. Our rugby team won’t put up such a disappointing show like this if it were to be a rugby competition,”she said.
Two other female workers in the company, Joyce Sennes and Johanne Mmaphefo also expressed sadness over the failure of Bafana Bafana to progress to the semi final of the Nations Cup.
Sennes, an indigene of Rustenburg, played a key role in the organising committee when South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup. She was one of the contract staff in the Local Organising Committee (LOC) at the Rustenburg venue.
Speaking with The Guardian on resumption for duty yesterday, Sennes said: “The game was tough, but I was disappointed with the way our boys kicked the ball into the hands of Malian goalkeeper during the penalty shootout. Even our Banyana Banyana (women team) won’t play penalties that way.
“I watched the game from the beginning till the end and we were supporting our boys to go on. When Tokelo Rantie scored the first goal, I thought the team would score more and win. They had worked hard before this game (quarterfinal). I was expecting them to win the trophy. I was disappointed with them. I congratulate the Malian team for the victory. I pray for them to win the cup now that my country is out. Maybe, the victory will end the war in that country,” Sennes said.
On her part, Mmaphefo, a native of Moruleng, which was one of the cities that hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, said through an interpreter: “I am so sad with their performance against Mali. I saw our President (Zuma) seating at the VIP supporting our boys but they couldn’t win. It was a shame.”
Others who spoke with The Guardian on the streets of Rustenburg tagged the Bafana Bafana a ‘big failure.’ One of them asked: “When are we going to have this opportunity again? With all North African teams out as well as the defending champions (Zambia), I expected my country to move into the semi final or even the final. It was really a big disappointment from Bafana Bafana.”
Before the game, many of the people had boasted that their boys, Bafana Bafana, would have the Malian Eagles for dinner.
In their usual character, some of them had prepared for an all-night party with bookings made in advance at various night clubs. They had their right-hand drive cars and trucks parked at all the locations waiting for the all-night celebration.
But as it turned out, it ended sadly for them and turned out pleasantly for the Malians, whose friends and relatives back home are either mourning their loved ones or living in fear of attack by rebel soldiers.
With Ghana ending the journey of the giant-killing Cape Verde and the Bafana Bafana losing to Mali, the coast is now clear for an all West Africa affair in the semi-final, which begins on Wednesday.
Author of this article: Gowon Akpodonor