Friday, 15 November 2013

Time to support our Bafana Republic. Three against Swaziland is fine. Anything less than a stuffing against Spain will do me

The face of Mr Price: Thabo Nthethe was captain for the
night in Swaziland - and scored his first Bafana goal

Let's get this clear from the start. I have a  problem with pessimists in our Bafana Republic (isn’t that what Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula called us last week?).

Just for starters, how about those twits calling for Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter’s head less than half a season after he became the first foreign coach to win the PSL (and he added the Nedbank Cup double).

They want Baxter out despite making the inspired subsitutions (George Lebese and Lehlohonolo Majoro) to clinch a tricky encounter against Gavin Hunt's Bidvest Wits last week.

And then there are those whinging about Roger De Sa, preferring to focus on Drawlando rather than celebrating the presence of a South African club in the African Champions League final for the first time in a decade. Nonsense. It's not like there are any great contenders to replace the boss at EITHER of the Soweto giants.

And then we come to Bafana. It started within five minutes of the kick-off on the plastic surface of the Somhlolo Stadium on Saturday night.

Our national coach Gordon Igesund was accused of EVERYTHING from a lack of imagination to a one-eyed selection policy. After months of agreeing not to choose pre-occupied Pirates, he filled his squad with Buccaneers and STILL nobody was happy.

It’s madness guys. As Manchester United fans will tell you, keeping faith in a coach is a vital part of any successful football set-up.

I tweeted frantically “keep the faith” though I too was surprised by some of the selections, particularly Thabo Nthethe, playing for leaky Bloemfontein Celtic but made national captain for the night. Apparently it has something to do with his new role as “The Face of Mr Price Sport”.

But after a dreadful first half, Bafana changed things. Igesund said afterwards: “We wanted to start strongly but they parked the bus, put a lot of players behind the ball. We had a chat at half-time about how to get behind them, it worked.”

It sure did. Two goals in as many minutes from Reneilwe “YeahYeah” Letsholonyane and young Bongani Zungu were followed by a well-struck goal from Nthethe himself, his first in national colours.

Could we have asked for anything more? Gordon admitted: “We did want to go for a 4th, 5th and 6th but overall I’m happy with the way we played. We pushed it about, we kept the ball.”

A bit of loyalty, a bit of belief wouldn’t go astray when it comes to Igesund, who capped his 90th player in just over a year on Friday night as he shuffled the pack for the home-based CHAN tournament early next year.

And of course it’s all change at Soccer City on Tuesday night when World and European champions Spain return to the site of their 2010 World Cup triumph.

Gordon points out: “I’ve got the overseas contingent coming to join us, there will be changes. But I may bring in another one of those who played tonight. I’m worried about Thabo Matlaba's injury. I’ve got two left-backs out now, with Tsepo Masilela – but Nthethe can play there too.”

Swaziland, ranked 183 in the world, may prove a tad less tough than Spaniards, ranked at No1 since 2008. But Gordon remains hopeful. Just wish the rest of our football-speaking nation would join him. Anything less than a stuffing would be okay by me.

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