Former Bafana midfielder Helman Mkhalele believes that Bafana players need to be mentally fit if they want to win the 2013 Afcon
Mkhalele who was part of the 1996 class (the squad) that won South Africa the 1986 Afcon, says that coach Gordon Igesund together with his technical team needs to focus on ensuring that the players are mentally fit.
“There isn’t much that can be done at this stage apart from instilling motivation in the players. In fact that is what our coach (Clive Barker) did with us in 1996. He made us believe that we are the best and we could deliver beyond expectations. He made us see that he believed in us and as a result we didn't want to dissapoint him as well,” said Mkhalele.
Mkhalela said Igesund needs to go beyond being a coach to those players, and become a friend to them in a way he can get into their skin and make them perform to their full potential.
“If not that then they cannot play, but they will need to believe in themselves. They need to understand that they are not only playing for the football fans, but the entire nation. Once that clicks on their minds they will surely deliver,” said Mkhalele.
The midfielder who also won the African Championship for Orlando Pirates in 1995 said the tactical side is important but if the players don’t believe that they are great then they are not going to go far.
“There is lot of pressure on our players, and they need to turn that pressure into motivation. They need to tell themselves that they want to break the record, they want to be remembered as the class of 2013, and with the right mental approach, anything is possible,” he said.
Though Mkhalele was happy with the overall squad selection, his only concern was the midfield as he believes that the only player who could have applied pressure on the opponents was Andile Jali, who did not make the cut.
“My concern is the midfield, as we need to put pressure on the opponents and also win the ball on their half or at the centre of the park. At times we tend to relax and allow the opponents to take lead. This then creates pressure on us, as the midfield players end up chasing the ball for the entire match.
“If you look back in 1996 we had Eric Tinkler and Linda Buthelezi who kept the opposition on their toes in the midfield and this time we need players that will have the same heart. Times may have changed but the will and desire to win is still the same, that is what wins matches,” he said.
The former player said he hopes that players who played in the Fifa 2010 World Cup will remember the pain that they felt when they were eliminated from the competition.
"If they can remember that pain, I am sure they wouldn't want do something that will put them in those shoes once again," he said.