Banyana did not disgrace – but it was a bridge too farThomas Kwenaite
It was always going to be a monumental climb for Banyana Banyana at the FIFA World Cup in France and despite a bright start in which livewire Thembi Kgatlana set the stadium alight just as Simphiwe Tshabalala did nine years ago, it was clear that they were out of their depth.
The huge gap in class between South Africa and their opponents was evident early on. Banyana were at 49, the lowest ranked team against Germany (2), Spain (13) and China (16) in the group and I knew they were onto a hiding to nothing.
But I did not express my views then, lest I be classified unpatriotic but even the hardest Banyana Banyana supporter when looking back at their performance will admit that a lot of factors worked against the girls.
Forget the VAR, I hear some people darkly muttering that it has been designed to frustrate African teams. And my response would be that is bull dust, because if we are honest in our analysis of the match against Spain we will admit that Nothando Vilakazi was reckless and deserved the sending off.
It did not help that she feigned ignorance when cautioned, the harsh truth is that she deliberately and recklessly planted her book onto her opponent’s thigh and to pretend she was innocent was disingenuous of her and the sooner she accepts her discretion, the better.
It was clear that Banyana buzzed with talent and enthusiasm, but their inability to kill a match or better still, the inability to convert as well as failure to make decisive decisions in the third quarter of the field was their undoing.
I accept that I’m senile and as I tried to change me dentures, clean my goggles for better viewing, I seemed to notice star naked fear in the eyes of the players and I detected that they were a little scared or perhaps nervous, I’m not too sure which.
I do not blame them though, for the stage was too big for them and I accept that it was their maiden appearance at this level. I think they will get better with time and before I forget, I also seemed to notice that they were too “nice” to their opponents.
And before you claim that I am contradicting myself, the truth is I noticed that the Chinese and Germans were sometimes a tad too aggressive, which is something Banyana also needed to apply to their game instead of trying to always win the ball with love – it’s tough out there.
I cannot however, fault them for their heart. They certainly put in enough effort to win my praise even though you could see that they appeared like a mosquito fighter exchanging blows with a heavyweight, they never dropped their heads and big ups to them.
I hope and pray that SAFA will somehow establish the professional set-up as they have been planning all these years and only then, will Banyana Banyana punch on an equal footing with the Spaniards of this world.