Soccer legends behind Bafana

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Durban - The Moses Mabhida Stadium was reminiscent of scenes from the historic 1995 Rugby World Cup when South Africa beat New Zealand in a nail biting final. South African Airforce helicopters trailed the skies leaving a sea of green, black, red, yellow, blue and white behind them. From the townships to the suburbs, South Africans lined the streets with their vuvuzelas which could be heard from the Valley of a Thousand Hills to the very top of Table Mountain.

In three months, the world will converge in South Africa ready to support their teams. The hope and dreams of the world cup trophy remaining on the African continent, rests on the shoulders of Bafana Bafana.

South African soccer legends have pledged their support for Carlos Alberto Parreira's squad and while they may try to emulate the likes of Neil Tovey, Phil Masinga and Lucas Radebe, it's their collective talent that will set them apart from the rest.

Surrounded by the ocean and sun rays of the Moses Mabhida Stadium, soccer legends were in awe of the Durban landmark which played host to the national celebrations to mark the 100 days countdown to the 2010 football spectacle.

With a gleam in his eyes and a hunger to put on his soccer boots for the final time, former Bafana Bafana player, Phil Masinga, who scored a goal in the 1997 World Cup qualifier against Congo that proved decisive because it took Bafana to the 1998 World Cup, said the World Cup will not only be Bafana's moment, but a moment for the African teams that will be competing for the coveted trophy.

"This World Cup will be extremely exciting, exciting because Africa is being recognised by the whole world. Players from Africa are being recognised for their talent," he said.

Masinga added that the country must remember that this World Cup is not just about Bafana Bafana, but about the rest of the teams from the African continent.

"This is an African World Cup, we as South Africans must rally behind the teams," he said. "But we must remember that the team has a twelfth player, the supporters, who will add to their success. Lets bring out our vuvuzelas and blow them as loud as we can," he added.

When former Bafana Bafana captain, Neil Tovey, raised the African Cup of Nations trophy in 1996 he had dreams of the FIFA Soccer World Cup coming to Africa. The fact that the soccer tournament would be played in his backyard 14 years later, never crossed his mind.

He said the World Cup will be a huge moment for Parreira's squad and hopes the squad will make the country and the continent proud.

"As an ex-player, this is what we strived for. It is now the present team's moment and it is a huge moment," he said. "They need to play with confidence; they will be playing on home soil after all. They must also enjoy the moment, they mustn't let it pass them by," he added.

Former Banyana Banyana captain, Desiree Ellis, said the team will surprise a few people, especially if they perform as well as they did during the Confederations Cup last year.

She said: "I believe that the team is going to surprise a few people. People have not given them a chance and they will definitely prove them wrong. Many players dream of playing a World Cup, but the fact that it's happening at home is a bonus.

"If they have the same attitude as the teams in the 1996 African Cup of Nations and 1995 Rugby World Cup respectively, anything is possible. They also need to play well against Mexico in their opening match. If they do that, they will definitely get far."

Brazilian soccer legend, Cafu, who has won the World Cup twice with Brazil and the UEFA Champions League once with Italian powerhouse AC Milan, trained with the squad earlier this week said he believed South Africa, would fare well against their opponents.

"Play each game as if it is the last game you'll ever play in your life," he advised. "South Africa is similar to Brazil in that supporters are passionate about their teams. I am very happy to be a part of this historic moment. The World Cup is definitely in good hands," he said.