With Bafana Bafana and Banyana Banayana both competing in major competitions in the coming weeks, South Africans should look to get behind our national teams, offer our unconditional support and not place unrealistic expectations on the respective squads, writes DEAN WORKMAN.
After years of heartache and embarrassment with having to watch these major tournaments from the sidelines, Bafana and Banayana both got the job done and qualified for this year’s African Cup of Nations and Fifa Women’s World Cup.
Bafana last competed in the continental showdown in 2015, but sealed their progression to the group stages with a 2-1 win over Libya earlier in the year to secure a second-place finish in the qualifying group, and handing Bafana a spot in the tournament in Egypt in June.
— Dean Workman (@DeanoWorks) May 21, 2019
Bafana have shown a steady improvement under Baxter, who has gone about building continuity within a squad of players, who are themselves striving to continually improve.
There are several young overseas-based players who have continued their development abroad, combined with numerous local players who are benefiting from the rising standards in the Premier Soccer League. The future looks bright for the men’s national team.
Despite this, Baxter has asked for calm ahead of the tournament when he announced his provisional squad earlier this week, ‘I find it strange, if you go back to where we drew to Libya, the headline in the press was ”To hell with Bafana”.
‘So, from ”To hell to Bafana” we go to, you have to win the trophy. I don’t think we were as bad as that, just as I don’t think we are as good as we ”should win the trophy now”.
‘If we go to Afcon with the mentality of they [other teams] don’t think we are that good, well let’s go show them. If they think well South Africa haven’t done anything in a long time, well let’s go do something. If we represent the country like that, I’m sure they will be proud of us.’
Baxter’s comments help put into context where the side currently sits, and while supporters can dream of glory at Afcon, there has to be some realistic thinking behind the team’s chances.
This is the first tournament this group of players will be attending, and they will likely grow from the experience and take that into future tournaments.
Baxter’s team is still in their early phase of development, there is a long-term plan in place and supporters will have to be patient.
Banyana, on the other hand, will be competing in their first-ever Fifa WWC after their second-place finish at the 2018 Women’s African Cup of Nations.
— Dean Workman (@DeanoWorks) May 23, 2019
Qualifying for the tournament is an achievement in its own right for this set of players, who are driving to help grow the women’s game in the country.
There should be no expectations on Desiree Ellis and her chargers, with no African team having ever gone further than the quarter-finals.
Banyana will be competing against teams whose resources dwarf their own, and against players who have benefited from the highest level of training and competition in Europe.
The women’s national team will undoubtedly benefit from the experience, but there should be no expectations.
So South African football fans, lets not pile unnecessary pressure on our boys and girls, instead let’s be happy to be competing at the highest level again, and back our teams unconditionally.
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