Goal.com SA caught up with the second most capped Bafana player, Siboniso “Pa” Gaxa, who has won 54 caps with the national team already, and spoke to him about the AfconGoal.com: Siboniso, how important is it to have experienced players like yourself in the Africa Cup of Nations?
Gaxa: I am humbled and I believe that it is very important to have as many experienced players as possible in the squad because we have seen countries bringing in their experienced players throughout the history of the tournament. For example, the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Joseph Yobo and Rigobert Song have always been selected to bring about experience in their respective countries.
Goal.com: This is your second Afcon tournament (The first being 2006 in Egypt). How different are the preparations now compared to back then?
Gaxa: Honestly, 2006 was a disaster but if you remember very well, we had a new coach just before the start of the tournament. So we didn’t have enough time to prepare and to understand each other very well. As for now, I think we are playing more as a unit and Gordon Igesund has had more time with the squad than our former coach (Ted Dumitru).
Goal.com: You made your debut for the national team in 2005 against the very same Cape Verde side and you guys managed to beat them. Are you expecting them to be tough opponents come Saturday?
Gaxa: It is going to be a tough encounter because this is a different ball game. We beat them on two occasions but I think they will seek revenge this time around. However we are more than ready to face them and I know it’s going to be difficult for them because our fans will definitely be behind us.
Goal.com: Talking about the fans, it is obvious that they are not pleased with the lack of goals and some fear for the repeat of the 2006 Afcon, where Bafana failed to score even a single goal the entire tournament.
Gaxa: Our fans need to be patient because unlike in 2006, we are now creating a lot of scoring opportunities and it is just a matter of putting the ball in the back of the net and besides, we also had off the field issues which I believe they played a role in our poor performance but it’s all in the past now.
Goal.com: Sboniso, you have worked with different coaches in the national team and fans believe that you should start ahead of Anele Ngcongca based on experience. Do you believe that working with various coaches could help the team progress to the next round?
Gaxa: Experience is vital, but fans should know that it doesn’t guarantee positive results but we always do our best to get results. I wouldn’t want to get into who should be in the starting eleven because that’s entirely up to the coach.
Goal.com: Let’s talk about the influence brought by European-based players in the current squad.
Gaxa: It’s very positive and they always bring something special in the team because they don’t isolate themselves from us. There is unity amongst us and that gives me confidence and hope that we’ll make the country proud starting from Saturday.
Goal.com: Lastly, you have spoken positively about the fans although there is a concern that there could be empty seats at the stadiums. What are your expectations of the tournament, are you as excited about it as you were about the 2010 World Cup?
Gaxa: We all are excited about the tournament and this is a chance to emulate the class of 1996 by winning this tournament on home soil. However, Afcon is different from the World Cup and fans need to understand and come in numbers to support their beloved national teams.