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Date: 14 December 2018

  South African - Soccer

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Mandela meets Bafana: Good omen?

[Posted 04 Jun 2010]
Mandela meets Bafana: Good omen?


By Brighton Mupangavanhu

Every team requires an element of inspiration when going into battle or a major tournament. This is indeed true for South Africa, the 2010 World Cup host nation who will be playing the dangerous Mexico in an opening encounter on 11 June at the Soccer City Stadium. Bafana Bafana met with the iconic figure Nelson Mandela on Thursday at the Nelson Mandela Foundation offices in Johannesburg.

The former President of South Africa, who is affectionately known by his clan name 'Madiba' arrived at the meeting venue clad in a yellow Bafana jersey bearing a number 4 infront. That number is Captain Aaron Mokoena's squad number in the Bafana team.

The squad members of the World Cup host nation had a rare opportunity to shake hand and exchange jokes with the world's most respected elderly statesman, Madiba. The Bafana captain Mokoena even shared a lighter moment with Madiba in introducing his fellow squad members when he introduced the gangly Matthew Booth as "the tallest man in the building". Booth is probably the tallest player at the World Cup this year, standing at 1.98m.

Mandela's morale-boosting union with the Bafana squad came against the Mandela family's concerns that the frail elderly inspirational figure was making too many public appearances within a short space of time. The ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC)has already promised South Africa, FIFA and the footballing family that Madiba will grace the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Cup.

"Madiba will grace both the opening and the closing of the World Cup. We are very honored to have an icon of Mandela's calibre to grace this important event. We are very happy that Madiba will come. The Madiba magic will add to the excitement", said ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Many neutrals might be asking the question, "Why exposing the poor old man to such chilly conditions in a Southern African winter". Well, there is an understandable reason why FIFA, the LOC and the ANC have chosen to take that risk at this stage towards the opening ceremony of the global showpiece.

Mandela plays such an important role which outsiders in South Africa might not fully comprehend. There is a general belief, something even akin to a cult-like belief in South Africa that Madiba represents everything victorious over odds staked against the nation of South Africa. In this case, South Africa is desperate to do well at the first ever World Cup to be staged on African soil, and Mzantsi, as SA is affectionately referred to, has the honour to host it. Any team which stands in the way of South Africa will therefore, understandably, be viewed as an obstacle which must be overcome. Thats where the so called Madiba magic comes in!

The belief that Madiba's presence can inspire Bafana Bafana to a miraculous triumph in the 2010 tournament is certainly not without basis. In 1995, Mandela arrived at the Rugby World Cup final wearing captain Francois Pienaar's green jersey. The Springboks, SA Rugby national team, went on to win their first ever world title on home soil. The 'Mandela Magic' was credited for the famous 1995 victory. A year later, South Africa hosted the African Nations Cup tournament. Madiba appeared at the final game between Bafana and Tunisia in captain Neil Tovey's jersey and Bafana, against all odds, lifted the African title for the first time ever, a feet never achieved before by any Southern African nation in the history of the Nations Cup.

Detractors of Bafana Bafana are likely to argue that Rugby and Cricket, the only major sports South Africa has won world titles are nothing compared to soccer. They will also add that while South Africa has the best Rugby and Cricket leagues and players in the world, the same can not be said about the local premiership and Bafana players whether they play abroad or at home.

But South Africa has every right to dream. To dream that with help from the inspiration of the Madiba magic, they can move mountains and record a World Cup triumph in soccer this year. Afterall soccer is such a crazy game. The world must be reminded that in 2002, little South Korea hosted the World Cup and surprised all and sundry by reaching the semi-finals without big name players in their fold. There is little to seperate the South Koreans from the Southern Africans.

All things are possible in soccer. What South Africa needs right now, is the right kind of inspiration. Mandela is that kind of a galvanising force that any team could ask for at this stage.

Besides Mandela, just like South Korea who had the astute leadership of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, Bafana can boast the coaching genius of a one-time World Cup winning gaffer, Carlos Alberto Parreira. The Brazilian won the title with his native Brazil in 1994. A plus factor is that South Africa has the vuvuzela blowing fans! All these factors will combine to make South Africa's dream more than just a pie in the sky.



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