Former Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki breaks his silence: ‘The wounds will never close until I die’

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Then Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki during a media briefing at Hilton Hotel in Johannesburg on March 22, 2021.
Then Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki during a media briefing at Hilton Hotel in Johannesburg on March 22, 2021.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Molefi Ntseki has said that Bafana Bafana’s failure to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Cameroon next year has left him with painful wounds that will remain open for the rest of his life.

Ntseki‚ who was fired almost two months ago after Bafana lost 2-0 to Sudan in a match where they needed a draw to qualify for next year’s tournament‚ said in an exclusively interview with TimesLive that resultant pain is still fresh.

“The pain and the disappointment of having failed to qualify are still very fresh with me‚” he said in his first interview since he was sacked by the South African Football Association (Safa).

“If I were to tell you how painful it is‚ I think the wounds will never close until I die. Qualifying for Afcon was something very close to me as a coach‚ as a professional and as a person‚ because I wanted to see myself and my country playing in the tournament under my leadership.

“I was the first as a leader to feel the disappointment for the team not qualifying because when you take any position or appointment‚ the first thing that comes to mind is to perform.

“Whether you work in the kitchen‚ in the restaurant or you serve food to clients that come to the restaurant‚ you always want to give your best. Like I said‚ I am disappointed that we did not qualify for Afcon but the truth is that this has happened before.

“The idea for us was not to be saying it happened before‚ the idea was to make our mark by qualifying for Afcon and we knew that the team was coming together into the type of football that we wanted to play.

“I was actually looking forward to going to Cameroon because I was there in 2016 with Banyana Banyana and I saw the type of infrastructure that they were putting together and how passionate the people are about football in the country. It was going to mean everything to be sitting in the dugout with my country playing in that tournament.”

Bafana’s failure to qualify was met with intense countrywide fury and ridicule. Ntseki said he understands why the public was enraged.

“When you are a soldier in the trenches‚ you can’t say my gun was not strong or good enough to defend my country. I understand the disappointment from the public but let us not be angry‚” he said.

“The expectation from the public is for the national team to play every game to win but an ordinary football supporter will never look into all these realities of why things didn’t pan out the way he or she expected.

“It is for us to explain and make the supporters understand that there are some things that were beyond our control and if we had our best players we could have beaten Sudan by an avalanche of goals.”

Bafana needed a point in their final match against Sudan in Omdurman on March 28 to reach the Nations Cup but lost 2-0.