Sunday, 27 March 2016

RESPECT FOR HLOMPHO KEKANA... and another chance for Bafana to restore South Africa's pride

MARK GLEESON, a man who knows something about South African football, described it as “the best goal Bafana Bafana have ever scored.”

I took the 2m tall SuperSport commentator to his first professional football game as a journalist in 1985 in Durban - at Glebelands in Umlazi. We’ve seen a lot of goals, but Hlompho Kekana’s 65m effort against Cameroon deserved to win ANY game.

Sadly, it didn’t. Cameroon came back from Tokelo Rantie’s excellent early strike in Limbe and then, after the shock of Kekana’s wonder goal, they did it again to ensure the Lions remain Indomitable at home.

The strike...
Tonight at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, Shakes Mashaba’s men - the first side to take points off Cameroon in Group M - get another chance to save some pride in what has been a disastrous AFCON 2017 qualifying campaign.

Two points from three games - after a home draw against little Gambia and that awful defeat in Mauritania - means qualification for Gabon next year is highly unlikely.

But a win tonight might just open the door a crack, assuming both Cameroon (seven points) and Mauritania (six points) slip up badly on the run in. Only the Group M leaders qualify for AFCON 2017 - along with the best two runners-up out of 13.

Even if they win ALL of their last three qualifiers, Bafana can only reach 11 points. Like their cricketing cousins, South Africa’s footballers appear to have choked in what looked a reasonable qualifying group.

Kekana himself, picked by Gordon Igesund for the national team in the 0-0 draw against New Zealand two years ago, refuses to be downhearted as videos of his Beckhamesque goal flash around the globe.

He says: “We should not be where we are at the moment. We know how important the points are in this group and if we have to start collecting them.

...the goal...
“The Durban match a very crucial one. A win there will enhance our chances and we know we are very capable of doing that, we just need to apply ourselves a little better and try to minimise mistakes.”

Of THAT goal, Kekana grins:  “I always check how the keeper leaves his line when they are attacking. This started at Sundowns training four months back.

“After we dispossesed Cameroon I looked up and saw the keeper well off his line and I took a chance, thankfully it went in.

“I was very excited - I’ve been trying to score goals like that at Sundowns but I couldn’t. At training I would hit more than ten balls with none going in and it was frustrating.

“But when the goals come in a match of the calibre against Cameroon it always bring joy – and not only to me but to my teammates and the entire country which shows just how much the goals means to everyone, not just to me. So this goal is for them.

...the celebration
"Saturday in Limbe was a very tactical match; both teams had an attacking mind. It’s a game we thought we will win but it wasn’t to be.

"We gave away the lead too easily but then again a point away from home is also welcome, but we know we could have done better. But hey this is Cameroon we are talking about here; few teams can achieve what we have done.

"We really have to win on Tuesday night, we have no more options left as we are left with nine points to play for seeing that we only have two after three matches. Three points will take us closer to the leaders with two matches remaining and we have to fight. I believe in this team and still think that we stand a chance of going to Gabon."

With any luck Kekaha can produce another wonder goal tonight. And Tokelo Rantie showed on Saturday he can score in Africa despite being ejected from Bournemouth's Premier League squad.

Three points won’t solve Mashaba’s problems but it will certainly go some way towards restoring South Africa’s footballing pride.

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