At first glance it may seem that there is little in common between the release of Apple’s latest technological offering, the iPhone 5, and the South African national football team.
Allow me to expand.
Ahead of the launch of the iPhone 5 on Wednesday 12 September 2012, there was a great deal of expectation, speculation and hype (if you are an Apple fan) and anticipatory criticism (if you are not an Apple fan). The usual false alarms about photos of the latest phone were circulated and the frenzy was at a fever pitch. As explained here by Rian van der Merwe there was also a wave of pre-disappointment sweeping the tech blogs in advance of the presentation.
An interesting point from the blog post by van der Merwe is the following “We can’t move beyond the amazing 2007 keynote where we first saw the iPhone. That’s where Apple set the bar, and now it’s almost impossible to reach it again. So, even though every year the iPhone and iOS keep getting better and better, we become less and less impressed because we have an unrealistic expectation that everything Apple does has to fit into the Excitement generator category.”
The point being made is that the expectations of any new Apple product are now so high that disappointment will inevitably follow now.
True to form, following the presentation of the iPhone 5 there was an outpouring of praise and criticism over the new device. Some die-hard Apple fans were loving the latest release as was to be expected, but the Android users expressed their disappointment at how the iPhone 5 was not even as good as the Samsung SII device. In summary, the iPhone 5 polarised views so completely that it would be difficult for a neutral person to gain any perspective on the device had they wanted to do so.
Ahead of South Africa’s first game under new coach, Gordon Igesund, there was some level of expectation for the national team. Ingesund is renowned for his man management skills and is the only coach to have won the PSL title with four different teams. The South African public rejoiced at his appointment and looked forward to a new era with a home-grown coach who would finally be able to bring the glory days back for Bafana Bafana.
I personally didn’t watch the Brazil – Bafana game but by all accounts the boys played extremely well, created a few chances but eventually succumbed to a narrow 0-1 loss.
The reaction to the loss on social media and in the local press was astounding. Some fans celebrated the loss as if Bafana had actually won the game. There was a great deal of praise for the style of play and the fact that the Brazilian supporters actually applauded the South African team and not their home team. Other supporters and pundits were unimpressed at the celebrations as a loss is still a loss and is no reason for jubilation.
Like the reaction to the iPhone 5, Bafana’s loss to Brazil requires some perspective. There were some positives to take from the game, which should be applauded and there is still plenty of room for improvement as well. The expectations for Bafana Bafana should be neither black nor white, but rather a shade of grey (one, not fifty).
South Africa re-entered the sporting arena in 1992, following the readmission of the nation to the global sporting family. Bafana Bafana promptly won the 1996 AFCON tournament and also qualified for the 1998 World Cup soon after that. The expectation levels for Bafana Bafana reached an all time high. Since those stratospheric levels, however, the national football team has been in steady decline (evidenced by the failure to qualify for the last two AFCON tournaments) and the ignominy of being the only World Cup host nation to exit the tournament in the first round.
The long and the short of it is that South Africa is not great at football. Conversely, the team is not the worst on the African continent by a long stretch but they are not at the level of the best teams either. The reasons for this are many and varied depending on who you ask [SAFA’s (lack of) administration, lack of technical expertise, lack of player development etc] and can debated ad infinitum, but there is no denying the fact that Bafana Bafana are a middle-of-the-road team in footballing terms. .
The South African national football team appears to be on the road to recovery – the appointment of Igesund has definitely boosted morale within the camp. Hopefully, with the right support from SAFA and a little bit of patience and time from the fans and supporters, Bafana Bafana can rise once again to the dizzying heights of 1996.