Take Bafana To The People!

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 24: South Africa players during the international friendly match between South Africa and Sierra Leone at FNB Stadium on September 24, 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 24: South Africa players during the international friendly match between South Africa and Sierra Leone at FNB Stadium on September 24, 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Watching Bafana Bafana hosting Sierra Leone at FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon was such an eyesore, especially looking at the way coach Hugo Broos’ charges displayed good football and found the back of the net with ease, winning by an emphatic 4-0 score line!  

What we saw in the stands is something we don’t want to get used to as it is so embarrassing to see our national team playing in front of a relatively empty stadium. Where were the supporters? What’s wrong with our people and attending Bafana Bafana games, especially at FNB Stadium? Not even relegation-threatened teams play in front of such a small crowd; even countries that never qualify for any major tournament don’t play in front of such a small crowd. For a country dubbed as a ‘football-loving nation’, with the sport being number one on the list, it is rather difficult to understand how the numbers can be so low in the stands. What further boggles the mind is the apparent lack of interest in our senior national team and it looks like people would rather be somewhere else than attending Bafana games. 

One wonders how long is this trend going to carry on for before someone at SAFA decides to take action and realise that it is time to take Bafana Bafana to the people? When are they going to realise that it is time to take Bafana to different provinces across the country? Provinces that are still hungry for football, with people eager to support our national team and football in general. It looks like that’s the only way out and forward so that we can rebuild the confidence and support of the national team. Taking Bafana games to Gauteng, FNB in particular, is pretty much like flogging a dead horse! People are just not interested. At the rate things are going, Bafana will soon be playing in front of empty seats in Gauteng even without Saddam Maake or Botha Msila in attendance. It will soon become like a practice match and these low attendance figures have been going on for too long at that match venue. It is sad to watch our national team playing in such an empty stadium and it is a clear indication that people have lost interest in the team. People have clearly got way too many entertainment options that Bafana isn’t a priority anymore. 

If you look at the fact that even Kaizer Chiefs are struggling to get decent crowds at FNB Stadium in recent times, then it goes without saying that it is time for change. Amakhosi have not had 20 000 or so supporters at their home match venue for a while and that’s a serious concern, considering this is the most supported team in the country. Maybe that’s another indication for SAFA to consider taking Bafana games somewhere else, far away from Gauteng and see what happens. It doesn’t matter if tickets are free, people still don’t go to Bafana games, period! It has been proven that the ticket price isn’t the problem, it is simply the lack of interest in our national team. Even with complimentary tickets, people need to be begged to go watch our team. For the Sierra Leone game, Saddam had a stack of complimentary tickets and arrived at the stadium well ahead of the game and asking people to come and collect free tickets from him. He came so close to begging people, but one wouldn’t be surprised to learn that not all those complimentary tickets were taken. One wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Saddam went into the stadium with some tickets still in his bag because there was just not enough interest. 

We can’t continue to bang our heads against the wall for so long and expect miracles to happen. It is time to take Bafana Bafana to the people and there are provinces that would gladly host Bafana and get decent crowds, if not capacity-packed stadiums, in support of our national team. Our national pride! Surely our team deserve to be supported fully and revive the wonderful memories that used to come with playing for Bafana, representing your own country. Maybe someone from SAFA will seriously consider looking at the last two international friendlies as the last games Bafana played at FNB Stadium until further notice. It is really sad and disheartening to see our team continuously playing in an empty stadium, with their home ground advantage counting for nothing. Surely our opposition must be wondering what’s going on with our national team.

Whether it is a qualifier or an international friendly, whenever Bafana are playing, the whole country should be on a standstill. Everyone should be interested in our national team with those close to the match venue traveling to watch, while others make use of television. The energy should be felt by the players and the technical team, not what we see these days. Now, the national team squad announcement seems to make more news than the actual match, which is bizarre! We talk more about coach Broos’ team selection than his team’s performance. How the mighty have fallen! People would rather go to picnics, parties or even cinemas than going to the stadium to watch our national team. Some don’t even bother to watch on television, they are just not interested. Yes, our team has also not covered themselves in glory in recent years with their well-documented failures, but that doesn’t justify the poor interest and attendance figures. These players are still going out there to represent the whole country and the least we can do is show appreciation by supporting them. They need our support now more than ever and it should be our collective responsibility to drive our team back to greater heights, where we belong. 

It is no longer guaranteed that there will be a decent crowd when Bafana are in action at FNB Stadium. If playing against Nigeria couldn’t fill that venue to capacity, what makes anyone think Sierra Leone or Botswana will do? One of the biggest rivalries in the continent, South Africa against Nigeria, and you still can’t tell whose home game it is because the Nigerians came out in their numbers. Even with that, FNB Stadium wasn’t anywhere close to being filled to capacity that day. There will be a massive difference anywhere else and that will be of great benefit to everyone involved with the game. SAFA can’t even monetize Bafana’s games because there’s very little interest in the team. Even with complimentary tickets, people still don’t show up, which is such a crazy thing to witness from a country that prides itself of being passionate about football. It is not sustainable to have Bafana play in an empty FNB Stadium. For this team to enjoy the support that they deserve, they need to be taken out of Gauteng and give others a chance. Gautengers have shown that they’ve had enough of Bafana and it is time to give others a chance. We need to read the signs and understand that it is time for change. Let’s give the national team to those who will embrace and support it fully. That way, SAFA can also make money from the national team instead of running it at a loss. 

It is not good for Bafana, it is not good for television, it is not good for SAFA and it is also not good for South African football to witness the downward spiral of the attendance figures. Something has to be done about this phenomenon. One wonders how the players feel about representing their country at this stage. Walking onto the field, to represent your country, and you turn around and you’re greeted by empty seats rather than vociferous football supporters showing their support. 



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