Hands off Bafana Bafana, Mr President

Molefi Mika - Sports Editor

Molefi Mika - Sports Editor

Almost no one, except for the curious, wanted to watch what was dourly referred to as "The Squad" in action during those trying times for football.

Yes, Sello Rabothata, myself and others at Sowetan were bothered about this.

After lengthy discussions with Sowetan's former chief soccer writer, Sbusiso Mseleku, we came to a conclusion that soccer followers, by their nature, did not associate themselves with a team or player with a dull or obscure name. We agreed that we must coin a nickname for this so-called "Squad".

We did some research as we wanted to come out with something original and unique.

Africa is full of national teams with nicknames imposed on them by western soccer journalists in most cases, thus you have Warriors, Stars, Elephants, Lions all over the show. Some teams were even called by their political leaders. Remember the KK Eleven in Zambia? What a joke!

We decided from the word go that names like Tigers or Panthers or Silver Foxes would also not be appealing, considering that these animals were alien to Africa. Then came questions like "what kind of a name is this?" as Bafana Bafana geared themselves for battle in the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

But soon appreciative banners hit you in the face on TV screens from the stadium grandstands telling Africa and the world that our beloved Bafana Bafana would be crowned the champions.

Sheer passion. Passion for our own Bafana Bafana - not some little boys as some people mischievously want to interpret it.

Is the problem the fact that the name is in an African language that some people are not comfortable with?

I wonder if Mr President himself, as the deputy of the country then, is not aware of this historical event.

Zambia changed their KK X1 nickname to the more acceptable Chipolopolo (bullets), an example they proudly borrowed from Bafana Bafana.

Mr President, in so far as this matter is concerned, I think you should rather dedicate your efforts to your quiet diplomacy.

Otherwise direct your views to issues that really need your attention, like the situation in Zimbabwe. Thousands (maybe millions) of that country's people are being displaced and going hungry in foreign lands.

Hands off Bafana Bafana Mr Mbeki!

l See also Page 8 and 9