Johannesburg – Every once in while, a clarion call needs to be made for a nation to stand united behind a single cause.
For South African football, that moment will present itself on Friday when Bafana Bafana – our beloved national football team – take on Senegal in a do-or-die World Cup qualifier at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.
Even though our boys have not covered themselves in glory recently, save for that thumping of Burkina Faso in their last outing, they still remain our boys.
Remain our boys
Their mission to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia must be ours as well. It is a matter of national importance.
You might ask why we need to stand behind them and give our undivided support.
I know Bafana Bafana have disappointed us many a time; they have flattered to deceive, promised a lot and delivered as little as a secondhand car does, but they remain our boys.
In the words of Ingoapele Madingoane in his famous poem Africa my Beginning, Africa my Ending, if you are a true citizen and patriot, South Africa should be your beginning and your ending.
Unlike those who enjoy dual citizenship and travel using different passports, some of us who claim to be imisinsi yokuzimilela (the indigenous people) of this country owe allegiance to no other country but this southernmost tip of Africa.
We can’t lay claim to the English national team or the Brazilian one, but we are South African to the core and the green, white, black, blue, yellow and red colours of our flag flow in our blood. We support Bafana Bafana – win or lose. They belong to us.
Friday is a time to forget everything that happened in the past, to focus on the present and stand as a nation behind our boys. It is a moment that calls for Peter Mokaba Stadium – named after one of the most vocal firebrands – to be packed to capacity, and for fans to blow vuvuzelas and sing lungs out for the duration of the game.
In fact, the singing and blowing of vuvuzelas should start way before kickoff in such a way that by the time the Lions of Teranga troop onto the field, they should feel like they are being asked by Madingoane’s rhyme: “Unataka nini hapa? [What do you want here?]”
But this should be done in a sporting and not a violent manner because Madingoane also says: “Binadamu wote ni ndugu zake za Afrika [All human beings are brothers in Africa]".
Our national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, must be sung with such gusto by the players and the crowd that, by the time the referee blows the first whistle, Senegalese players will be shaking like leaves caught in a vicious wind.
To this, Bafana must respond with the same vibrancy and militancy displayed by late ANC Youth League president Peter Mokaba and slay Senegal.
I know it looks like a steep mountain to climb given the quality of the Senegalese team, but the father of this nation, Nelson Mandela, had an answer to that when he said it all looks impossible until it’s done.
Bafana have done it before – in that match that was annulled by Fifa because of the nefarious ways of the Ghanaian referee who handled it.
I also call on the SA Football Association to start with a campaign to garner support for the match. This should be done to ensure that the stadium is packed.
We all know that supporters are the 12th man in a football match.
A win for Bafana in this match will leave them with just 90 minutes to make it to Russia, which will be the return leg in Senegal next Tuesday.
I have been accused of being an eternal optimist, but I strongly believe that it can be done.
To Stuart Baxter and the boys, I say: “You go, Bafana Bafana.” To the nation, I say: “Let’s all unite behind our boys".
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