There are moments when your country of birth makes history, and experiencing these instances first-hand can be very special, writes Peter PedroncelliWhen the history being made is in the form of a sporting triumph, the memory is inflamed and is forever given pride of place in one’s mind and heart. Rugby World Cup victories in 1995 and 2007, as well as the Afcon title in 1996 come to mind.
Unfortunately, on the first day of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, there were no great triumphs to report for South Africa when they took on Cape Verde at the National Stadium in Johannesburg.
I shudder to imagine the words that would have been flung around by coach Gordon Igesund at half time in that dressing room when Bafana came to terms with the flow of the match and the nerves which had gripped them during the opening Afcon encounter against the debutants Cape Verde.
Perhaps being a fly on the wall would have revealed Gordon Igesund's tactical mastery of football, or some disciplinary strategy that attempted to breathe fresh life into a Bafana side which seemed to be consumed by tension before the break, and to a great extent throughout the encounter. The match ended in a goalless draw, and perhaps the best way to describe the game in one word would be ‘dull’.
The pressure on any host nation is immense, but the benefits coupled with home advantage cannot be ignored, and should have filled the team playing in front of their own crowd with confidence and conviction.
The familiar calabash arena and tens of thousands of supporters armed with vuvuzelas should have been enough to produce a victory for Bafana, but alas, fans of the green and gold wearing, home side were left to wonder what might have been and look forward to the next two games against Angola and Morocco with an uneasy hope that qualification to the quarter-final stage may still be a possibility.
So after a false start, Bafana need to come to terms with their mission, and make sure to gather the necessary points against an experienced Angola and a talented Morocco side. The players have described Durban, the city which will host their next two matches, as a happy hunting ground, and the plethora of supporters who have been disappointed by the exploits of the national team time and again will be hoping that words are turned into actions when all eyes return to the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
The players need to believe in their abilities as a team, and realise that they are capable of much more than the unimaginative and boring play that they were culpable of in the first match. By the same account, we as the fans need to be supportive of Bafana even when they are not performing to the best of their abilities, because that is what fans do. Those booing at the end of the Cape Verde clash are adding to the national team’s problems, not presenting a solution to their confidence and attacking issues.
If we are to support a team of winners, we need to prove ourselves to be fans with the sole intention of backing the players who are representing us at continental and international level. Belief begins with the individual, but in a team sport so reliant on the love and support of the fans, supporters need to play their part and give Bafana a chance to repay the faith with progress to the next round of the competition.
Those who say that a quarter-final berth is a bridge too far should remember that Bafana will have a nation behind them when they attempt to cross it.