Bafana Bafana training camp abuzz ahead of Confeds Cup

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Johannesburg - With less than three weeks until kick-off to the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, the Bafana Bafana training camp at the Johannesburg Stadium is abuzz with activity.

The enthusiasm in the camp is high and one gets the sense that the national team is determined to defend the country's pride at the upcoming tournament.

Speaking to BuaNews on Wednesday, shortly after an intense training session, Bafana Bafana Captain Aaron Mokoena said motivation enough was the high expectation of local fans and the team could not afford to disappoint.

"Every player in the team wants to ensure that the FIFA Confederations Cup trophy remains in South Africa.

"We train very hard and the mood at the camp is positive which shows that players want to go out and perform their best for the country," said Mbazo (an axe) as he is popularly known by his fans.

He said one of the advantages that the team had was that they were playing on their home ground; however he added that they would not underestimate their competitors.

"We are playing at home and that will add strength to players but on the other side we will not underestimate our competitors because they have experienced players who are familiar with these tournaments," the captain said.

Mr Mokoena, who has just joined Portsmouth FC from Blackburn Rovers in England, affirmed that the relationship between overseas-based players and local players was great.

"It is very important for players to understand each other on and off the field because that assists players to develop mentally and also create a sense of family within the team.

"All we need is support from all South Africans because without them we can't reach our best," said the South African defender.

The local squad is using the remaining days before the kick-off on 14 June to hone in on their physical and mental strength.

The team will play against Mauritius on Saturday in a training match and on 6 June will play against Poland in a friendly match before locking horns with Asian champions Iraq in the tournament's opening match in Coca Cola Park in Johannesburg.

Meanwhile, Defender for Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates, Benson Mhlongo told BuaNews that the team will not underestimate Iraq, adding that they believed that the Middle Eastern side could prove to be a challenge.

"They are very quick on the ball and play aggressively; though we are not frightened by them, we will have to play cautiously.

"The spirit is high among the players and we are looking forward to the tournament and to prove our critics wrong. Its going to be a do-or-die situation," the lanky defender said.

Mhlongo who has been outstanding in the Buccaneers in the past season told BuaNews that players want to emulate the 1996 squad which won the Africa Nations Cup, by lifting the FIFA Confederations Cup trophy on Mzanzi soil.

"Our rugby team and cricketers have won international titles. Now, it's our time to make our soccer fans proud and we want to give our best to make that dream come true.

"We need support from South Africans and criticising the team will add no value but will dampen players' moral and demolish our spirits. We want to work hard for this one," he said.

The national team goalkeeper, Moeneeb Josephs said Coach Joel Santana had asked the players to relax and take it easy while keeping in mind that winning each game was important.

"We want to win every game and proceed to the next phase of the tournament. We have the fighting spirit and with the country rallying behind us nothing will stop us from reaching the next round of the tournament.

"Everyone from the technical team to kit manager wants to make the country proud and its in our hands to make South Africans happy," Mr Josephs said.