Expectation is defined as “A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future” or “A belief that someone will or should achieve something”.
England is a nation that is fanatical about their football, and they are a team that has suffered from the overbearing weight of expectation ever since they won their solitary trophy in the World Cup final in 1966. Since that victory, a Groundhog Day scenario unfolds before the start of any major tournament England qualifies for. The media builds up a sense of hope with numerous articles about how great the current team is, how well they will do and how <insert current star player name here> is the best thing since Nando’s chicken. When the team subsequently exits the tournament, the same media is quick to point fingers and look for scapegoats or reasons for the defeat.
England is a decent footballing team that meets expectations. As a top ten ranked nation, they generally qualify for major tournaments and typically will make it to the quarter finals (or sometimes higher) – in other words, they will be among the eight teams left in the “business end” of the tournament. The main stumbling block appears to be that the media and supporters expects the team to do significantly better.
Expectation is something that comes by the bucket load when dealing with Bafana Bafana. South Africa has a strong sporting history and although cricket and rugby are definitely popular, the most followed game in the country is football. As a result of this popularity, there is an enormous expectation that the national team should succeed against most of its opponents.
Although South Africa has been ranked as high as 38th in the FIFA rankings as recently as May 2011, the facts speak for themselves. Bafana Bafana qualified for their last major tournament, World Cup 2010, by virtue of being hosts. Since their exit in the group stages of the 2008 AFCON tournament in Ghana, they have failed to qualify for two tournaments in a row. They will qualify for the next AFCON tournament in 2013 as hosts once again.
These results fail to explain why there is a huge expectation for Bafana Bafana to overpower their ostensibly lower ranked African opposition. Perhaps part of the answer to this conundrum lies in the fact that South Africa is one of the more economically developed nations on the continent. There is significantly better infrastructure and access to world-class facilities, and some South Africans appear to feel there is a direct correlation between economic and sporting power.
Prior to the international friendly between South Africa and Zimbabwe, there was a definite sense of expectation that Bafana Bafana would easily overpower their northern neighbours. South Africa had drawn against the Ivory Coast in their last game played on 12 November 2011, so this would be a routine victory even without nine regular first teamers who had been rested by coach Pitso Mosimane. The expectation was further fuelled by the fact that South Africa is currently ranked 49th in the world and Zimbabwe ranked 74th.
A lot of headlines were generated before kickoff due to the inability of the national broadcaster, SABC, to screen the game live and instead creating a new word in the broadcasting lexicon called a “delayed live” feed. Once the game commenced, there was substantially more talk around the poor quality of the video feed than there was about the game itself. South Africa took the lead through Bradley Grobler who scored on début, but were undone by the “Smiling Assassin”, Knowledge Musona, who scored a brace to give Zimbabwe victory.
South Africa, like England, appears to have an inverse relationship between actual ability and desired results.
Will this change any time soon? This appears unlikely as expectation – like love – is an emotional
decision and not a logical one.