Posts Tagged ‘soccer’

Bafana to Bokke… back to Soccer City!

August 23, 2010

A friend asked me earlier which was a better experience? Being at Soccer City for the opening game of the world cup between Bafana Bafana and Mexico, or going back to Soccer City for the first rugby match ever to be played at the stadium between the traditional rivals, the Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks?

A tough question to answer…

Firstly, I just can’t get used to calling it FNB stadium again. How could I? The old FNB stadium has gone through a complete metamorphosis. From the stark, somewhat foreboding, concrete caterpillar of the 80’s & 90s’s to the architectural marvel of the new millenium that has emerged from the cocoon to become the colourful calabash of Soccer City. For many millions around the world the first visual image they ever had of South Africa was when they first tuned in their TV’s to watch the opening game of World Cup 2010. I can only imagine what the Serbians, the Japanese, the Chileans must have thought of South Africa the moment our most modern coliseum filled their TV screens with the faces of thousands of yellow and green South Africans. Third world?? I think not! “Welcome to Soccer City!” is what the world will remember!

After many years of anxious waiting, and fretting like many others over our ability to pull it off, finally taking my seat at the World Cup opening game between Bafana and Mexico was a once in a lifetime experience. I vividly remember kitting up in my green supporters outfit, Makarapa & Vuvuzela et al, and heading out to the game on that typical sunny winter’s morning. I didn’t know what to expect. Did anyone? I remember the goosebumps I had the moment the UFO-like stadium first came into view as we came round the last bend of Nasrec Road. It was like those Umhlanga holidays I had as a young kid, driving for what seemed like eternity from the Joburg Highveld down to the Durban coast, and the rush of excitement I felt when my dad finally called out “kids, who can see the ocean?” and we would all screech out in delight as the vastness of the Indian Ocean rose up over the horizon.  The moment I stepped out the car and took in the massive expanse of the stadium that was about to swallow me up I think I started bouncing up and down like a little kid again. The events of that afternoon will live in South African folklore for time itself. Just being there, blowing my Vuvuzela as the teams walked out onto the field, to stand up and patriotically belt out our national anthem ‘Nkosi Sikelele’, and rejoicing Bafana’s  cracking first goal – the goal heard around the world – I have never felt prouder of being able to call myself South African. It was my moment, it was your moment, and it was bladdy well everyone’s moment! From Madiba to Zuma, from Francois Pienaar to Simphiwe Tshabalala, from the Boere in the platteland to the township kids playing in the streets of Soweto, from Pofadder to Mpumulanga, this was a moment when we could all call ourselves ‘Proudly South African’!

Now being back at the stadium this past Saturday to witness the two goliaths of world rugby, the old foes, do battle for the first time in the cauldron of the Calabash was also an outrageous experience. At the soccer I was a proud South African, yet, like many others in the stadium, the South African soccer culture was as foreign to me as the crazy Mexicans seated next to me. However, rugby is different. I am a Springbok rugby man by birth right. And like all fanatical fans I believe I could pick a better team than the coach (bring back Frans Steyn!) So being at this specific rugby match on Saturday was a call to arms, a battle cry – I just had to be there. I had to be there to witness the first time South Africa played rugby in one of the world’s most magnificent stadiums, I had to be there to be one of those 94,000 plus fans who made up the biggest crowd ever at a South African rugby game, I had to be there to drink cheap ice-cold Castle Lager beers (goodbye overpriced Budweisers!), I had to be there to pay respect to our Kaptein, John Smit, as he ran onto the field to a hero’s welcome for his 100th test, I had to be there to shout out “BOK-KE! BOK-KE!” in the most electrifying response ever witnessed to the All Blacks famous Haka chant


, I had to be there to sing the Zulu/Xhosa parts of our national anthem which is becoming just as loud as the Afrikaans/English parts, I had to be there to boo the ref for his perceived bias against the Boks and apparent favour for the opposition captain Richie McCaw, and I most certainly had to be there to jubilantly celebrate as the might of the South African forwards bulldozed over to score the first ever try in what will surely be the first of many Springbok games at our new ‘national stadium’. And I don’t think anyone missed the Vuvuzelas (they were banned).

Sadly the Springboks lost! And like all Bok fans I despaired about why and how we lost the game. Without getting technical my main gripe is how could a team, which is mostly comprised of players from the two teams (Bulls & Stormers) who dominated all and sundry in this year’s Super 14, perform so badly in the Tri-nations? My buddy summed it up best “We simply got outcoached!!” Enough said.

The main differentiation between going to the opening game of the world cup soccer and the first rugby game ever at Soccer City is that we hoped Bafana would win, but in the rugby we expected the Springboks to win. The sport might have been different, however the stadium was the same, the atmosphere was just as stirring and the GEES and patriotism at the rugby was as immense as that opening game of the world cup. As the cliché goes, word just cannot describe it…

So what was the better experience? I can still sense that rush of excitement as the world cup kicked off, and my voice is still hoarse from screaming at the ref on Saturday. Perhaps the opening game of the soccer pips it… just… simply because it was a once off event, never to be repeated. No time is better than the first time, but the Springboks will be back at Soccer city.

Either way, I was truly fortunate to be at both games for such momentous occasions in South African sporting history.

And best of all it all happened right on my doorstep in the city of Gold… and Green: Johannesburg.

Jozi Fo Sho!

Winner and Losers of WC2010 Part 2

July 29, 2010

A friend of mine, who just got back from London, messaged me now and commented that Joburg “seems strangely quiet.”

Did the World Cup really happen??

When I started typing this blog on Sunday late afternoon, it was exactly two weeks ago since I was in ‘football’ heaven, excitedly weaving through the masses at Soccer City, match ticket and last Bud (thankfully!) in hand, for the greatest extravaganza South Africa has even seen… the World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands. This was the final act, the last stomach-twisting turn on the thrilling roller coaster which was Africa’s first world cup. And what a world cup it was!!

Against all the ‘supposed’ odds, as those naysayers prophesised, South Africa pulled off one of the greatest events in the long history of the World Cup. Why was it so great? In my opinion, the world didn’t know what to expect (if anything low/negative expectations), and such is the psychology of the mind, when one has no expectations it can only go up from there! Almost akin to a quiet night out with a planned early bedtime, which turns out into the biggest alcohol-induced bender of thrills, spills and crazy interactions in places you have never seen or been to before. The kind of night when you wake up, head throbbing the next morning, and with blood shot eyes  you smirk into the bathroom mirror and slowly whisper to yourself “what a night, what a great fucking night”. And I think that is exactly what every South African, foreign visitor and journalist thought on Monday the 12th July, the morning after the final:

what a night, what a great fucking night!!

Now almost two and half weeks later, I am sitting at my dining room table, which is only just large enough to play host to streams of paper and files of work which literally had to ‘take a hike’ during the month long festival of football. Whilst I sip my freshly brewed cup of Milo, a song by Arcade Fire plays in the background, somewhat aptly named ‘Antichrist Television Blues’ as the 24/7 football channel on Supersport is a fading memory, I am sensing how ‘strangely quiet’ Joburg seems.

So, a couple of weeks after the fact, after my initial Winners blog, it is a good time to ponder who were the losers of the World Cup? Hmmm, when I think about it, were there actually any real losers to this world cup?

Perhaps it was the superstars who were supposed to light the field alight with their world class skills, and their even bigger ego’s. Ronaldo, Rooney, Messi, Kaka are a few of the players who come to mind who arrived at this world cup and were punted to be its headline acts. As the building-wrapped billboards and seemingly Hollywood-directed TV commercials would make us believe. But that didn’t happen (Did Ronaldo even play??) But are they losers? I think not! They are all home now, earning their fat salaries, being pampered by their supermodel wives or girlfriends and jetting off to practice in whatever supercar there $150,000 a week salaries have bought them this week. So they didn’t exactly get a winners medal draped around their neck. No sir! These guys are Winners!

Perhaps it was football itself who was the real loser? Seeing game after game of players diving around the field in a manner that would make Olympic high divers proud, or the acting of the players feigning injuries with such masterclass and passion that I heard they were going to bring Simon Cowell in as a studio guest to rate these ‘performances’. Or, and this is what I hated the most, the players surrounding the referee in manner akin to assault whenever a  decision went against their team. FIFA promoted the ‘Say No To Racism’ campaign before certain games, a noble effort, but what moral message was all this ‘simulating’ sending out to the kids, the clichéd leaders of tomorrow? Dive, roll, or swear your way to get ahead? Certainly didn’t do much for promoting the beautiful game! But is football the loser? I think not! It’s just 2 weeks till the kick off of the English Premier League and I couldn’t be more excited! The world is addicted to football (ok, maybe not the Yanks, but they can have their baseball!) and come World Cup 2014 in Brazil, Mr Blatter is going to rake in another $2billion, hopefully including a few bob for my match tickets!

Perhaps the figurative losers were Netherlands for doing their best imitation of Bakkies Botha by trying to thump the Spanish off the field during the final after playing so attractively in every other game? Perhaps the losers were the people, on those Durban-bound flights, who missed the semifinals? Perhaps the losers were some traders or hospitality vendors who lost money as the business didn’t come their way? Perhaps it will even be South Africa itself, who might not take the lessons it learnt to heart and build on this fantastic momentum?

When I really think about it there were no real losers of this world cup. There was no troubling breaking news, there was no massive crime wave, nor tourists left stranded without accommodation or transport. Perhaps an isolated story here or there. This isn’t Utopia afterall. The Dutch will always be regarded as purveyors of entertaining football, those unlucky travellers stranded in Durban will hopefully remember the rest of their magical trip, there were plenty vendors who did great business, and South Africa was the most popular phrase in the world for 4 long weeks (followed closely by “vuvuzela”)  – where else can the Ministry of Tourism get great coverage like that!

Ultimately, the unlucky losers are us poor sods, who two weeks after the World Cup, have been dragged back into a normal sense of reality. Gone are the throngs of previously unheard of foreign accents clogging the restaurants and bars; the jovial acceptance of the daily nuances that bothered us so before; and the adrenaline rush caused by the anticipation by the next game to go to or watch. This place was pumping!! Back is the impatient Joburg attitude; the daily cursing at the taxi’s weaving illegally through the peak hour traffic; and the nervous anticipation of what Julius Dilemma is going to spurt out next… Xenophobia anyone?

Zapiro, The Times, 14 July 2010

When I started this blog I was sitting on a couch at the impressive Hyde Park Hotel Bar, daydreaming out the window and wandering to myself “Did the World Cup really happen??”  The setting sun caught my eyes, forcing me to squint. As I refocused onto the purple hue of dusk, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of Joburg encapsulated by the glory of an African sunset, one of the city’s most endearing and loved characteristics.

Woza! Tomorrow is a new day and, with or without the World Cup, a new adventure awaits. Afterall, this is Joburg… a place where anything but the expected happens…

Mzansi Fo Sho!

Don’t blame Uruguay!!

July 6, 2010

I am sitting on the plane to Cape Town en route to watch my 11th (gotta milk it!) game of this World Cup – the semis between Holland and Uruguay. Prior to opening my laptop to type this blog, I forced myself through a tasteless cup of airline coffee (I am a self-professed coffee snob) whilst trawling through the morning papers. One article in The Times particularly caught my eye, titled “Fifa gets soft with Suarez”, in which I learned that Fifa has given a light sentence to Luis Suarez (the Uruguayan striker sent off for the last minute handball against Ghana), and only banning him for 1 game for his red card indiscretion. Fifa decided not to extend this automatic one game ban further. The article further stated that “instead of paying the price for his cynical play…Suarez has been hailed as “heroic” in his South American homeland”.

South Africans hate the Uruguayan’s….

I use the word ‘hate’ in context with the many conversations I have had with friends and colleagues the last few days: on the dejected train ride home from Soccer City after the game, on the fairways of the golf course the next morning with knowledgeable fanatics, and the surprisingly many conversations with the ‘new’ football experts the world cup has created in the last 3 weeks – most of them female, and most of them knowing only 2 footballers prior to the WC2010… Beckham and Ronaldo! (Let that be the lasting legacy of this World Cup, female football fans who will NOW appreciate their men spending countless hours on the couch on a Saturday afternoon watching 3 football matches in a row! Long may it last!!)

All these conversations had one thing in common – the utter derision for the Uruguayan football team who’s “cheating” knocked out our adopted and beloved Ghana out  of the World Cup. Add that to the 3-0 thumping Uruguay (rightly) gave Bafana in the group stages and you can begin to understand why ‘we’ hate Uruguay.

But you know what, given the same scenario in reverse – a last minute free kick to defend – any other team would probably would have done the exact same thing as Uruguay i.e. placing 2 defenders on the goal line to save the ball from the crossing the line. And by save, I mean using whatever appendages necessary, including hands. If you look closely, Uruguay had 2 guys on the line, and both of them had their hands in the air to catch any ball that came their way. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing. Suarez just happened to be the lucky/unlucky player.

This world cup has cemented the fears of many football purists: that the cost of losing is a much HIGHER price to pay than maintaining the spirit of the game, and playing with a high moral standing i.e. all that SPORT is supposed to stand for. For me personally it is taking away the enjoyment of the game … and makes me appreciate rugby and, ironically, the gentleman way it is played that much more (BOKKE!!)

There is only one outfit to blame for this lack of immorality and cheating that has riddled the game, sadly illustrated waaaay too much during this current world cup – not Suarez, not Uruguay, or the many other footballers playing for the dive or goading the ref to red card the opposition. Blame FIFA. They have created this environment, and refused to do anything about it over the last few years. Look at their treatment of Suarez for example – instead of using an opportunity to make an example of this massive flaw in the rules of the game, they have rewarded him and his team by allowing him to be available for the final if Uruguay make it (and he is a key player). An example has been set by FIFA, and footballers the world over – from the best professionals in the best leagues in the world, to, unfortunately, the school kids playing for their junior teams – have taken note and will imitate and do the exact same thing as Suarez did for Uruguay.

In my opinion, an even worse incident was the German goalkeeper against England for not acknowledging the goal that crossed the line. The keeper stated after the game that he continued playing as if nothing had happened in order to deceive the referee. It worked. If the goal stood the whole dynamic of the game could have changed in favour of England, rather than Germany powering on to thump the English. FIFA should have banned the German keeper for the rest of the World Cup based on his admissions.

However, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for the world’s most popular game. FIFA has finally recognized the need for video technology, and hopefully the distasteful actions by the many ‘respected’ ambassadors of the game during the crowning glory of Fifa football, the World Cup, will finally push FIFA to use it. I think post-match citing for cheating should be introduced as well, ala rugby, to discipline players who get tackled yet roll around on the ground as if they had just been right-hooked by Mike Tyson just to get the opposing player sent off.

So… everyone said Suarez was cheating. He wasn’t. He was just bending the laws created by FIFA to give his team the best advantage possible. Yes it was immoral, yes it was hurtful for the supporters of Ghana, but objective achieved and Uruguay marched on to the semi-finals. As I said, given the reverse scenario, Ghana would have done the same thing. And what would have happened then? I will tell you: the 80,000 odd supporters of Ghana in Soccer City that night (including me), and the thousands around the world, would have rejoiced at the Ghana player who would have saved that goal and treated him as a hero!

And what would have that said about us??

Plain landing soon, football to watch!

Netherlands fo sho!!

Do YOU believe in miracles??

June 22, 2010

I was surfing a webpage the other day titled the ‘20 greatest commentator quotes of all time’.

As this was an American website, all but maybe 1 or 2 of the quotes were unfamiliar to me. The quotes were mostly from the big 3 US sports – namely (American) Football, Basketball and Baseball – in which the championship winning team of the year are affectionately yet arrogantly titled the ‘world champions’. So, obviously, there was no soccer, rugby or bullfighting quotes. What a shame as the list is missing at least one classic inebriated  Hughie Blayden’s “Jacque DeVilliers UNBELIEVABLE!!” (rugger fans will smile knowingly…)

That said, the #1 quote on the list was one I certainly did recognise, not because I saw the game (the match in question was played in 1980 I think) but because it was glamorised in the film ‘Miracle’ about the apparently underdog USA Olympic Ice Hockey team’s improbable victory over the undefeated Soviet Union. The usual classic Hollywood fodder David vs. Goliath come-from-behind movie that triggers mass American patriotism glorified by Disney. Whatever brings in the bucks!

The commentator of the day, with a few seconds remaining in the game, and with the US leading the Soviet Union by one goal, shouted out “Do you believe in Miracles???!!” which rated by the website is apparently regarded as the #1 sports commentator quote of all time.

The question is, and I refer this to our beloved Bafana Bafana fans, as our flavour of the month national soccer team embark on a seemingly impossible task later this afternoon, do you believe in miracles??

Looking back at the games so far I felt Bafana rose to the occasion, played beyond their capabilities, to eke out a draw against a highly rated Mexican team in Game 1.

Sadly, in Game 2, Bafana got abruptly bumped back to earth against a Uruguayan team who had obviously not read the Cinderella-story script penned by Sepp Blatter & his cronies. Then again, neither had the ref! Nevertheless, the gulf in class and pedigree between the 2 teams ranked on complete opposite ends of the football scale was there for all to see. The exuberance of the Bafana fans was unreal before the game, the perimeters of the stadium were awash in green and yellow and of course the fantastic rainbow colours of surely the best looking national flag in the world. OUR WORLD WAS ROCKING!!

Sadly, we were not ‘rewarded’ with the desired result, and the fickleness of the superficial South African fans was plain to see as they left in droves before the final whistle blew – this was not the product that FIFA and our media sold to them. I was sitting in the stands at Loftus at the end of the game and I felt really sorry for the players who tried their best on the day but were obviously just not good enough – which many pundits actually predicted before the WC commenced. I felt ashamed as a fan that when the game ended the Bafana players needed the love that  gushed over them in bucket-loads leading up to the game, none best illustrated than during the Sandton parade. But when they looked up into the stands for support, many, many empty seats glared back at them.

With kick off pending against France later today, the French team is riddled with controversy and turmoil, so never has there been a better opportunity for a football ‘minnow’ to beat a superpower of world football. The scene is perfectly set: If Bafana play the right team, come out attacking and manage to nick an early goal, and maybe another before half time, there is a chance, albeit a really small one, that the football world could be turned on its head. Coupled with either a win by Mexico or Uruguay (a draw will mean these 2 teams advance to the next round) then maybe, just maybe….

Time for us Bafana fans to get UNITED behind the boys for just ONE more game. Let’s DO it!! Kenako!!

Hopefully then we will have an answer to the question posed by the American commentator from that famous day in US sport: “Yes! Miracles DO happen!”

… And then, my friends, the PARTYwill start!

Viva Bafana Viva!

Mzanso fo sho!!

Afro-Optimism 6 Cynics 0!

June 15, 2010

Going back to work today after a crazy football-induced weekend was a sobering reality. And that was only after 3 days of the 2010 World Cup! Imagine the hangover the Monday 12th of July will bring after the festivities have officially ended.
I lucked out with a golden ticket to the opening game (thanks Kwatsies!!!!), and also endured the 4hr trip home in the early hours from Rustenburg after the Yankee/Pom game, and if the experience of being in Soccer City and Royal Bafokeng stadium is a measuring stick for what is to be expected over the rest of the competition, than we are in for a PARTY of the greatest proportions. This is GEES in all its glory!!
The sensation I felt whilst walking last night through a Melrose Arch teeming with foreigners reminded me of the same feeling I would get when rushing through a packed Times Square when I lived in New York: I would sometimes just stop in my tracks, as hundreds of people shuffled around me, and wonder in amazement that I actually lived ‘here’.
Such incredulous thoughts don’t cross my mind very often when thinking about living in Joburg (although riding the Gautrain last week was certainly a proud moment, watch this space), but bladdy hell, now is a grand time to ponder ek se!!
South Africa has experienced a wave of negativity in recent times, from the disastrous power outages of the summer of ‘08 (a conspiracy theory to validate price increases I tell you), to the Julius Dilemma Project with their no 1 hit “Kill the Boer”, and definitely my personal general frustration of tyre swallowing potholes… pessimism of living in South Africa had almost reached boiling point for many. With such negativity follows its ugly cousin, cynicism. None more so than that being directed at South Africa’s efforts at preparing for the World Cup. I have to admit there were days when I questioned the logic of spending a billion or so rand for building a probable white elephant stadium in Nelspruit, the capital of the Mpumulanga, a province ravaged by unemployment and other pressing social problems. I, along with many other South African’s, questioned the ability of SA to house, feed and transport the international travellers and supporters of the world’s most popular sport. And especially, from a Joburg point of view, what the hell are we going to do to entertain them all! Patriotically we aggressively argued, as is our nature, with the overseas newspapers who called into question South Africa’s (not Africa’s) ability to host an event of such magnitude, yet silently we thought that these journalists might be right!
And all it took was ONE…….. yes only one……… magical, fantastical afternoon in Soweto to prove every single one of the doubters wrong (myself included) especially those pesky British tabloids! All week long I felt it building up inside of me, a knot of anticipation that became so tight that I finally exploded with undulated patriotic emotion the moment I crossed over the pedestrian bridge and laid eyes on the imperious ‘Calabash’ Soccer City looking down on the thousands upon thousands of yellow clad Bafana Bafana fans streaming through its welcoming gates. And don’t forget the 15,000 or so Mexican fans who are surely going to go back home suitcases laden with Klipdrift and KWV… “Klippies an Coke Senor, we left the worm back in SA!” And guess what else – Joburg is the nerve centre and party capital of the World Cup! Unthinkable! (ok… maybe the Park & Ride has been a wee problematic)
Much more has been spoken, written and regaled over the weekend about this seemingly massive day in the ‘new’ South Africa’s young history, an event much bigger than our victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup according to François Pienaar, the winning Springbok Captain of that day. We all have our stories and pictures of where we were the moment the rocket of a shot left the boot of the pint-sized midfielder Siphiwe ‘Shabba’ Tshabalala and exploded through the Mexican goal. A split moment this country will never ever forget. Not only did we score the first goal, but a goal of such quality and precision to ‘boot’!
For me personally, on my way to the stadium I thought that just as the Red Sea of Apartheid symbolically opened up for the Black South Africans, led by the wise and virtuous Mandela adorning the Springbok Green & Gold , to a new and promised land in 1995, I thought that the World Cup would afford us Mlungu’s (whiteys) the same opportunity to finally show our commitment to the cause to the new South Africa, to embrace the game and culture loved by our fellow Black South Africans…. Well, how wrong I was!!
As I proudly stood inside the stadium splendid in my green overall, Bafana jersey, Makarapa and Rainbow flag wrapped around my waist, I glanced around at my fellow citizens around me – Black, White, Coloured, Indian, young and old – all equally as passionate and proud to be a South African on this very special day and then it dawned on me: this wasn’t a day for us Whites to prove we were proud South Africans, this was a day for ALL South Africans to stand together, Bafana United, to SHOW not only to ourselves and to our sometimes provoking leaders, but to the world that each and every one of us are the bricks on which the foundations of this great country are built. Hopefully now, we ALL realise this, no matter what song Julius comes up with next.

To quote a line out of one of the many articles I read on the internet, this one from a correspondent from the Telegraph summed it up best “To be part of the epic trek of 90,000 to Soccer City’s extraordinary calabash, a smiling, cheering, trumpet-blowing mass of pilgrims who could not help but stir you with their utter pride and joy at staging Africa’s greatest ever sporting event, felt like a rare privilege

And what a privilege it was!
Long may the optimism last…. because I don’t have enough Myprodols for the hangover!

Give ‘em 6 of the best!
Mzansi Fo Sho!


Bafana 101: Why the name Bafana Bafana?

March 12, 2010

Sticking to the nickname theme of my last post, I thought it would only be logical to write about the origination of the nickname of the South African soccer team, Bafana Bafana (Zulu for Boys Boys). Surely this bit of information is pre-requisite sporting knowledge for the thousands of South Africans who are going to witness not only their first South African soccer experience during the World Cup but probably their first live soccer game ever (my mom definitely falls into that category!)

However, what I thought would be simple research, discovering why the South African national soccer team is called Bafana Bafana, has evolved into an exercise of investigative journalism…

You would think that with the World Cup looming large, in 90 days 9 hours 35 min and 24 seconds to be exact, there would be a flood of information on the web about the team and the history of what will surely be the most popular phrase during the world cup “BAFANA BAFANA”

Apparently not!

Unbelievable really.

Every website tells you that the SA team is referred to as Bafana Bafana but none of them tells you why?

I first tried my source for all things info, Wikipedia*.  My trusty wiki tells me that: “The South Africa national football team or Bafana Bafana is the national team of South Africa and is controlled by the South African Football Association.


If wiki offered nothing, I knew I had a little challenge on my hands… So I rolled up my sleeves, warmed up my clicking fingers, and hit Google.

After opening up what seemed like countless websites linking to the name “Bafana Bafana” all I discovered was that the South African soccer team is referred to as “Bafana Bafana”. Some even went out of their way to translate that into “Boys Boys”.

Well done.

Now I regard myself as a pretty handy ‘Googler’ so I was not about to give up so easily…

I applied some logic and searched for the “bafana bafana homepage”, and got redirected to, the South African Football Association. And guess what? No information on the source of the nickname. Zilch. Nada. Big ups to Safa!

Entering bears the “This domain has been registered by Adams & Adams on behalf of its client.” If I call Adams & Adams they will probably charge me R4500 for 5 minutes of ‘legal’ advice. No luck here…

And proudly states that this site is “under construction”

There are some really progressive website owners out there.

Finally, as the heat of my overworked laptop was about to burn a hole through the pillow resting on my lap, I stumbled upon a link


“The nickname ‘Bafana Bafana’ was originated by a group of journalists – no-one has ever been able to verify their personal claim to this – and it was in 1992 after SA was readmitted into FIFA. Our National team had already played 6 games, winning 1, drawing 1 and losing 4. The excuse made for this poor start was that we were still ‘young’ in International football and still learning the game at this level, and so it also played a part in the nickname, because the ‘young boys’ were still learning”

Another explanation from the same link proffers “the origin is that the Sowetan newspaper journalists coined the name for the team after re-admittance, and it comes out of the fact that prior to re-admittance in the townships the teams were owned/managed by older men and the younger men played in the team. It was common for the older men to say “abafana bam ba dlala kahle” which means “my boys are playing well”.

Makes sense to me.

So there you have it – the origination of the name “Bafana Bafana”, a little bit of information every ‘Proudly South African’ supporter needs to know.


** Out of curiosity I searched Wiki to see if it revealed the source of the nickname for the SA rugby team, the Springboks. Wiki tells me that the name was first used in 1906 when the South African management,  days before the first tour match to the British Isles, coined the reference “Springboks” to avoid the witty London press from inventing some “funny name”.

my faith in wiki is restored!

Bafana 101: What’s in a (nick)name?

March 8, 2010

Going to the 1996 African Nations Cup Final was definitely one of my defining sporting experiences. Just being in the stadium in the newly post-apartheid South Africa was a. novelty within itself. Soccer through the apartheid years in South Africa had mostly become the domain of black South Africans (as rugby was to the whites), and the daunting FNB stadium was home to the big two of South African soccer, Soweto heavyweights Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

One of my favourite memories of that day was being one of over 110,000 soccer fans crammed into the 90,000 seater FNB Stadium in Soweto, all bellowing out in a passionate yet synchronised style “FEEEEEEEEESSSSHHHHHH” in reference to Mark Fish, the legendry South African central defender who at that moment had just expertly robbed the Tunisian player off the ball. What boggled my mind was that Fish was a white player, yet was just as adored by the fans as when John ‘Shoes’ Mosheou, the creative genius in the heart of the Bafana midfield got the ball and everyone chanted “SSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOEEEESSS”, as more than a handful of supporters immediately pulled one shoe off and waved it in the air, almost in sacrifice to their hero. When Lucas Radebe slid in to make an important tackle it was the same story, “RRHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOO”.

Fans of the local game in South Africa are well known for imparting nick names on their favourite players, almost as a term of endearment. Although most of the names are original and relate to the players’ physical appearance or style of play, some have been taken from popular culture such as movies or even the names of other famous footballers whom the local player reminds the fans of. In fact, nicknaming is probably an old township culture still around today. I remember my uncle telling me that the caddies at his golf club referred to him as ‘Mr. Experience’ because every time he came to the golf course he asked for a caddie with “experience”. To this day when I go back to my old golf course Kyalami, there are always caddies, some of whom I have never met before, who greet me as ‘Satch’ as one of the first caddies I ever used at the course mispronounced my name “Sacks”!

“Most of the nicknames come from the supporters. The names reflect the way you relate to them and the way you display your skills. It creates great relationship between players and supporters,” says  ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu. Shoes himself cannot remember how he got his nickname – but he has had it since he was a child.  It appears that usually one or two people mention a nickname in a shebeen (a local pub) and fans familiarise themselves with that name. They go the stadium and start chanting that name and the next thing you know is that the newspapers use the name and it stays. Lucas Radebe was given the nickname “Rhoo” because of the echo it creates around the stadium – so every time he touches the ball the crowd would chant “Rhoo”.

Some of the more colourful nick names I remember include Helman “Midnight Express” Mkhalele, a skilful winger from the winning 1996 team who got his nickname from his dark complexion and pace; Jerry “Legs of Thunder” Sikhosana an Orlando Pirates legend who was part of the Bafana 1998 World Cup Squad; and the former Orlando Pirates defender Gavin Lane was given the nickname ‘Stability Unit’ because of his ability to organise the defence and sort things out; and the simple “Go Man Go” adorned to the prolific yet pacy Bafana striker Marks Maponyane. But my personal favourite is Thomas ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ Hlongwane!

Nicknames of the Bafana players expected to do duty during the 2010 World Cup include the current captain Aaron ‘Mbazo (the Axe)’ Mokoena for his tough tackling; Steven ‘the Mighty Peanut or Schillo’ Pienaar named after the Italian footballer Salvatore Schillaci; Thembinkosi ‘Terror’ Fanteni; Teko ‘Deco’ Modise; Siboniso ‘Nesta’ Gaxa; Benson ‘Mayanga’ Mhlongo; Surprise ‘Masterpieces’ Moriri; Siphiwe ‘Clipz’ Tshabalala; and Katlego ‘Killer’ Mphela

When you are sitting in the Soccer City stadium for the opening game of the World Cup for the Bafana vs. Mexico game and you can name Killer, Deco and Terror as they run onto the pitch you are fast becoming a true Bafana fan!

And just remember to chant for Matthew Booth ….. you can’t miss him – just look for the very tall, very skinny lily white defender. Whenever he gets the ball, you gotta shout out “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOTH!!!!”

Bafana Bafana! Boys Boys!

March 3, 2010

Itumeleng Khune, Siboniso Gaxa, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Matthew Pattison, Siphiwe Tshabalala.

Recognise any of these names?

Probably not!

But what if I had to mention names such as Lucas Radebe, Neil Tovey, or Doctor Khumalo?

Somewhat more familiar, right!

The arbitrary names I first mentioned are some of the ‘star’ players whose young shoulders the hopes and dreams of many  Bafana Bafana supporters rest upon during the approaching World Cup 2010. Yet only those who are familiar with the local soccer league (PSL) will actually know who these players are or what they are capable of. But to the rest of us uninformed South Africans or even ardent soccer fans, who are most likely followers of the English Premiership, Spanish La Liga or Italian Serie A, and could name many players in these respective leagues, the names of our local star players are as ‘foreign’ to us as the street address of our favourite ‘foreign’ team!

I for one, am a massive soccer fan, or more specifically, for my troubles, I support Liverpool Football Club. I can name the majority of the current squad and most of the reserves, and I can remember who played right back in the 1994/95 campaign. I can amazingly even remember when they last won the league!

But don’t ask me who is the current leading scorer in the local South African league or which team last won the championship. I don’t even know where Kaizer Chiefs, most likely the biggest team in the land and one of the best supported clubs in the world, play their home games (actually I don’t think they know either!)

The World Cup Football is the biggest sporting even in the world, and it’s happening right on OUR DOORSTEP!! Many South Africans are already showing interest in the team, but sadly most of us only know the nickname of the South African team (…….. Bafana Bafana. Come on!) , and the circus that surrounded the appointment of Carlos Alberta Perriera (….most people probably don’t even know he is from Brazil but they do know he is earning R1.8 million a month!!)

The success of the 1996 African nations winning team cemented the names of those players in soccer folklore. Unfortunately many of us peripheral supporters only started getting behind our team as they successfully progressed through the tournament. This times its different, the interest is already there.

I definitely need to know at least the basics of our players and team if I am going to say that I am a true Bafana Bafana supporter at this World Cup!  I want to explore the faces behind the names, the clubs they play for, their nicknames (and there could be a few gems at that!)  and come the World Cup, hopefully names such as Teko “Deco” Modise and Katlego “Killer” Mphela will be as recognisable as Mark “FEEEESHH” Fish and John “Shoes” Moshoeu.

If you are a footy fan, local or foreign, perhaps you too will learn a bit more about the Boys! So when a Brazilian or German tourist sitting next to you at the Ellis Park game, which you naively won tickets for in the ticket lottery, asks you who Bafana’s best players are, not only will you know their names you might even know which positions they play too!

How can we fully get behind our team this World Cup if we don’t even know about the players who are going to do the duty and wear the Bafana jersey with pride, guts and hopefully glory!!

Mzansi fo sho!

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