Stuart Baxter has a keen understanding of the function and place of the ongoing African Nations Championships (Chan) with his side of local players most likely to either impress most or win the tournament outright.
With that being the stark choices South Africa faces in relation to Chan, I know you might say that the aforesaid is really counting their chicks before they hatch. The temptation not to see the Chan tournament as a stepping stone to a bigger stage is irresistible. But that is an unfair take on the tournament aimed at home-grown talent to international standards. Nothing wrong there!
Before Stuart Baxter came around to preach the gospel of this tournament to the unconverted, its ranking was and remains very low among football followers. Not because of the lack of talent, but because of the absence of proven football celebrities.
South African fans seem unwilling to pop out hard-earned dough for this tournament. Had you witnessed the stands at Moruleng stadium in Rustenburg, you might be forgiven for not noticing that it was a proper international event.
Here the competition organisers must take the blame for firstly not sizing up this competition properly and then based on its weight, assign it to locations such as say Kimberley, Middleburg, Welkom, Emalahleni or some place with minimal to zero international football on the menu.
Had that happened you might not have seen the colour of the bare seats such as was the case at Moruleng. One also noted that the fans in attendance at Moruleng were more keen on television stardom than they were of sampling the sporting menu at hand. Pardon, that’s the sour grapes talking.
As it turns out Moruleng as a venue is already saturated in football of the highest quality. Locally they have a professional side Dikwena over there that ropes in the masses by the numbers each time they play teams from out of town.
The locals there can afford to turn up their noses at what they consider crumbs from the master’s table. Had the venue been say Pofadder, Klerksdorp, Mahikeng or Kuruman, the organisers would have served up a certifiable feast to that town. But no, the pencil pushers at Chan HQ had other matters on the brain, other than securing a full house for the talent on display.
The national coach, who duly noted the nation’s seeming off-handed treatment of this tournament, has grasped onto the tournament as a proving ground for his untested talents. In the process he has talked up the competition, called out its relevance including the breaks it will likely present to a starstruck footballer who is confined to the local team benches. Because coach Baxter started out so well in his second turn at the wheel,we take note.
So far Baxter’s local outfit have done well. Our neighbours Botswana took the brunt of an organised attack. We twice kicked the life out of the Batswana in this competition and advanced to the next round. It seems Baxter is onto something here; all of a sudden this tournament is not the dour, unimaginative, nuisance affair it used to be under his predecessors. What with the Moon family down in Durbs supplying us with another scoring machine in the guise of Ryan, our future here certainly needs shades.
It’s a huge pity we cannot say the same for the junior national team AmaJimbos (Gents). Amajimbos came up against the junior Chipolopolo (Zambia) in Mauritius on Sunday. The 3-2 result in Zambia’s favour somewhat spoils our intent of being the total masters (inja ze game) of the Cosafa calendar. As said before, in Cosafa the other teams are there to ensure our guard of honour to all the titles. Period. Sunday’s result for Amajimbos dampens the chutzpah we have in stock for this tournament.
We go off script. Seeing that we are in the NC we doff our hats to a local great who has carved a niche for himself in women’s cricket. Kimberlite Hilton Percy Moreeng who coached the Proteas women’s side to the ICC semi-finals in London last week, joins a constellation of local cricket greats.
With thanks to Moreeng senior who opined as much on Sunday during an informal interview, Hilton joins some of our illustrious cricket exports which include, (in no particular order) Loots Bosman, Victor Mpitsang and Pat