Fans of the SA squad will be holding thumbs that the good times are finally back. S’Busiso Mseleku reports.
For the first time in a long time, the South African senior national soccer team – Bafana Bafana – will play two top-quality national games back to back.
They face African champions Nigeria in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Wednesday night and then come up against 2013 Africa Cup of Nations runners-up Burkina Faso in the Nelson Mandela Sports and Culture Day at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Hosted in honour of former president Nelson Mandela, who, over the years of his reign, was a lucky charm for South African sports teams, this game might prove to be just the right tonic for the national team.
Surely, the matches will rekindle memories of the 1990s when the national team tackled top sides such as Brazil and Germany as well as the likes of Zambia and Egypt in Africa.
The Wednesday game, kicking off at 8.15pm with tickets selling at R50 and R100 is set to provide fireworks.
Matches between the two nations are always hard-fought, grudge affairs. The Super Eagles West Africansare wont to remind Bafana that they only won the 1996 Afcon trophy because they (Nigeria) were absent.
The bragging rights are firmly with Nigeria as they were vindicated by winning the 2013 version while Bafana Bafana bombed out in the quarterfinal stage, losing to Morocco on penalties.
So the stage is set for a scintillating game of football, with the likes of Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel and goalkeeper Vincent Enyama on display.
And then, on Saturday, Aristide Bancé, Jonathan Patroipa and Abdou Razack Traoré will also attempt to dazzle Bafana.
The likes of skipper Itumeleng Khune, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Dean Furman, Anele Ngcongca and Tokelo Rantie will have to up the ante if Bafana hope to make a good fist of it.
It’s a pity that the last three players will have to jet out of the country after Wednesday night as Saturday’s encounter does not fall within the Fifa calendar.
Politics and logistics aside, KwaZulu-Natal fans, who have proved over the years to be mass consumers of the beautiful game, are expected to fill the World Cup venue.
This will surely create a vibey atmosphere, with a massive vuvuzela soundtrack. This should serve as a good starter for the match against the Super Eagles.
For Saturday’s historical shindig, proceedings kick off at 11am with a match between the South African Masters and their Italian counterparts.
Bafana Bafana face Burkina Faso at 1.30pm and the Springboks take on Argentina at 5pm with a music concert starting at 7pm.
Spectators will have to cough up R220, R350, R450 or R550.
Tickets for both matches are available at Computicket, Checkers and Shoprite/Checkers outlets. Bafana are ranked 67th in the world and are 12th on the continent while Nigeria is 35th globally and fifth in Africa.
The Burkinabe are placed 48th in the world and seventh continentally. Beating them will mean a lot.
Bafana Bafana vs Nigeria vs Burkina Faso
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs); Wayne Sandilands (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Defenders: Eric Mathoho (Kaizer Chiefs); Tshepo Gumede (Platinum Stars); Thabo Nthethe (Bloemfontein Celtic); Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk); Bevan Fransman (Supersport United); Tshepo Masilela (Kaizer Chiefs); Innocent Mdledle (Supersport United); Buhle Mkhwanazi (Tuks); Thulani Hlatshwayo (Ajax Cape Town)
Midfielders: Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns); Dean Furman (Doncaster Rovers); Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs); Bongani Zungu (Mamelodi Sundowns); Thuso Phala (Supersport United); Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs); Lerato Chabangu (Moroka Swallows); David Mathebula (SuperSport United); Bennet Chenene (Supersport United)
Strikers: Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs); Tokelo Rantie (Malmo FF); Lebogang Manyama (Ajax Cape Town); Luyolo Nomandela (Free State Stars)
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