South Africans love sport. We are are one of those nations that always gets behind our national teams with full force at every tournament as if we are ranked number one and are the most likely to bring home the gold. And yet, more often than not our national teams seem to achieve mediocre results and receive praise for it.
Take Bafana Bafana for example. If ever a team has caused heartache in this country, it’s the national football team. With most of the country being football supporters there is no end to the emotional damage they are able to cause in one weekend of play. Their most recent disappointing result was coming home with bronze from the COSAFA cup in Zambia. Now I know that you’re reading this and already thinking up excuses for our beloved Bafana; like that we sent our second team to Zambia because ABSA Premiership clubs wouldn’t release their players, and perhaps you’re saying, “Well bronze really isn’t that bad”. See how comfortable you’ve become with mediocrity? Now don’t get me wrong, bronze isn’t always mediocre. Bridgitte Hartley won a bronze medal in the 500m Women’s Kayak Single (K1) at the 2012 London Olympics and that was an incredible achievement! The whole country was moved, and rightfully so. She is the third best in the world! Canoe sprinting isn’t by any means a major sport in South Africa, and certainly isn’t one with massive funding and resources. So when she beat the likes of Canada, Germany, UK and the Netherlands it was spectacular. But when the most economically powerful country in Africa brings back Bronze from the COSAFA cup, I fail to be moved – no matter how proud Gordon Igesund is of his boys.
Bafana’s next match is against Nigeria on 14 August in the Nelson Mandela Cup. Nigeria are the current AFCON champions. Why not Bafana? Why were we satisfied with just getting to the quarter-finals on home soil? Why do we continue to let mediocrity reign in our country’s biggest sport? At the moment we’re all holding our breath to see what happens with Bafana’s qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. We were knocked out of the qualifiers after a humiliating loss against Ethiopia, but lucky for us Ethiopia cheated by fielding players who were supposed to be benched due to consecutive yellow cards in previous games. So FIFA took action against them and South Africa has a small chance of qualifying again. It’s always permutations with this lot. They never just win and qualify for things. Sigh!
Bafana aren’t the only culprits as you know. Our ever-choking Proteas have played in six World Cups and four World T20 Tournaments since readmission in 1991, and they’ve been knocked out in all of them. The excuses range from bad weather and misreading the Duckworth-Lewis table, to being outmanoeuvred. In August 2012 South Africa became the first team to be number one in all formats of the game. At the moment we’re number one in Test Cricket, fourth in ODI’s and fifth in T20 Cricket. We have the best players in the world, but can we win the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand? History says no, but we live in hope.
It’s inevitable with such brilliant sports stars representing our teams that South Africa will win matches, but the country wants to see big tournament wins too! It’s not enough that we’ve won two Rugby World Cups or the 1996 AFCON. We are due another big win. With the high calibre of athletes on the track and in the water, we could do with more medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics & Paralympic Games too! We cannot continue to let mediocrity reign on our sports fields.
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