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Bafana can conquer again, says coach

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Bafana Bafana were a powerhouse in African football and coach Molefi Ntseki believes they aren’t far from rediscovering the glory days.

DURBAN – Bafana Bafana were a powerhouse in African football and current coach Molefi Ntseki believes South Africa is not far from rediscovering the glory days.

Four years after South Africa were re-admitted into international sport in 1992, were crowned African champions in 1996 and in 1997 competed in the Fifa Confederation Cup before qualifying for their maiden World Cup in 1998 in France.

The 1996 team conquered the continent and were preparing to take on the world with their galaxy of stars, who played for top clubs in Europe. But 24 years later Bafana are ranked 74th in the world and only ninth in Africa after a spectacular fall from grace.

However, Ntseki feels those heady days are within reach, especially as more of the country’s top players are plying their trade in Europe.

“If we have a top league in South Africa, we will have top players. If we have top players, we will export more players to top European leagues. If we look back we will realise that we once had top players and many of them playing in Europe and doing very well there,” Ntseki said.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a decline in the numbers of players we are exporting. When you look back since 2014 we are seeing an increase of players that we are exporting again. We are profiling them and we will bring them into the set-up. It is important to have a top league because we can export players. 

“When that happens we will have a strong team.

“A strong national team will compete in the Cosafa Cup and dominate the region. A strong national team will compete in the Afcon and do well. Doing well in the Afcon will also produce good quality players and they will be scouted by European teams.

“When that happens, we will have players who will qualify for the World Cup. Not just qualifying but doing well in the competition itself.”

It’s been 18 years since Bafana qualified for the World Cup. South Africa played in the 2010 edition by virtue of being the host country.

“If you remember how Zambia won the Afcon (in 2012), nobody gave them a chance. But the attitude of the team and with the coach (Herve Renard) and his personality, being a winner, we saw Zambia doing very well. I think we’ve got more quality that we can use for the team to qualify and do well. As long as the players’ attitude is what is required.

“South Africa won against Ghana in the Afcon semi-final in 1996 and I still believe that if we have that belief and right attitude, we will win against Ghana and qualify for Afcon. Whoever we have to play in the last 10 or last five, if the attitude is right and the belief is right, we will do well.”

Bafana were pitted against Ghana for the 2021 Afcon and 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

“I believe that with the group that we have now and other talent that is waiting on the wings, we will have a very strong team going into Afcon and World Cup. Qualifying for the Afcon will be a great preparation for us to go for World Cup qualifiers. I have faith in the team.”