And so the dream ends.
Bafana Bafana exit the Afcon 2013 with a bit of a whimper. Having started the tournament with an inauspicious draw in the opening game against Cape Verde, spirits were lifted with a 2-0 win over Angola. The nation then got fully behind their football team for the final group game against Morocco and showed tremendous team spirit in coming from behind twice to draw 2-2.
The emotional roller coaster that the South African football loving public endures is similar to the one that another footballing-mad nation goes through at each major football team. That nation is England.
Like South Africa with their host nation Afcon victory In 1996, the Three Lions have a similar host nation victory in 1966. Both victories seem to exert a lasting hold over both countries and are frequently mentioned as a reference point for whichever players take their turn to don the jerseys. The ghosts are victories past hold sway over the current generation.
After England’s exit from the Euro 2012 tournament, where the team was outclassed by a technically superior Italian team the English media were unanimous in their praise of the hard-working team that showed a lot of “character” and “spirit” during the tournament. Similarly, Bafana Bafana have been widely praised for restoring pride and showing honour in their failure. SA coach Gordon Igesund said ” I think we lost with pride, dignity and passion”.
England, of course, have a great history of losing in the “lottery” of the penalty shoot outs. There is a long list of players including the likes of Stuart Pearce, Gareth Southgate, David Batty, Ashley Young and Ashley Cole who have all missed penalty kicks for England over the years. South Africa can now add Dean Furman, May Mahlangu and Lehlolonolo Majoro have now taken their places in South African football history for e wrong reasons.
The post mortems have begun. Who is to blame? You know that someone needs to carry the can.
Former SA striker Phil Masinga reckons that SAFA should take responsibility for a large part of the blame. I think he has a point. The match fixing scandal was swept under the carpet a little too quickly and quietly, and more importantly nobody has been punished – yet.
Coach Gordon Igesund’s job appears to be safe for the time being. He seems to have won praise from some quarters for instilling a sense of belief and purpose in the team.
South Africa now move onto the important business of trying to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Under Igesund, the signs have been positive and hopeful. Only time will tell if Bafana Bafana can move past the memory of ’96 and forward into the present day.