2010 host status distracted Bafana Bafana, says MacBeth Sibaya
JOHANNESBURG – The euphoria that surrounded the 2010 Fifa World Cup overwhelmed all South Africans, such that MacBeth Sibaya insists that Bafana Bafana would have done better if the tournament was hosted elsewhere.
This month marks a decade since the global showpiece was successfully hosted on home soil. But not all was rosy for Bafana as they rewrote the history books by becoming the first host nation to crash out of the group stage.
The then Carlos Alberto Parreira-coached team drew with Mexico in the tournament opener and lost to Uruguay in the second game, while the win over France was not enough to grant them a spot in the knockout stage as they finished third in Group A.
Sibaya, one of the few players who were part of Bafana’s squad at the World Cups in 2002 and 2010, believes that were they not caught between being footballers and proud citizens a decade ago, they would not have had such an underwhelming outing.
“It’s difficult to sum everything up. One was caught between being a citizen of a hosting nation and a player,” Sibaya said.
“There were also ambitions that needed to be reached by the team, and there were a whole lot of activities that were surrounding the World Cup, so it was quite difficult to deal with everything and being everything at once.”
FILE - Bafana Bafana midfielder MacBeth Sibaya skips past French forward Thierry Henry during their World Cup game at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein in 2010. Photo: Peter Steffen/EPA
Considering that Bafana had also missed out on the previous global showpiece in Germany in 2006 - having last qualified for the 2002 event in South Korea/Japan – they were bound to have a mountain to climb in 2010 when they simply qualified for the tournament as hosts.
“It could have been easy if the tournament was played on another continent. Maybe if as a country we were used to qualifying for major tournaments, that would have also made our job a little bit easier,” Sibaya explained.
“There was a very big gap between Germany and Korea/Japan. There was an eight-year gap between Korea/Japan and 2010. A huge gap. We didn’t participate in big competitions, and as a country we struggled in the (Africa) Nations Cup and so forth.”
Sibaya arrived at the 2010 global showpiece with a lofty billing, having been one of seven Europe-based players in the 23-man Bafana squad, as he was on the books of FC Rubin Kazan, where he had won back-to-back championships in the Russian Premier Liga in 2008 and 2009.
And considering that the now 42-year-old also played in the Uefa Champions League and Europa League, it’s safe to say that he hit legendary status in the town of Kazan, where he had to endure bitterly cold weather conditions.
However, since the days of players like Sibaya, there’s been an alarming trend of South African players who secure moves abroad but fail to cut the mustard - where two seasons later they take the next flight out and return to the PSL.
Sibaya, though, stresses the failure to adapt in a different country or continent is not only among footballers but the sporting fraternity at large.
“The problem is that the ambitions and commitments as a country have shifted so you are likely to be a victim of those changes,” Sibaya explained.
“Most of the players who’ve not made it overseas are victims of our perfection as a country and community. One can easily be influenced by a shift of thought or ambition.”
Sibaya added: “So there are factors that contributed to some of the players that didn’t make it abroad. But it’s not only from soccer, it could be any type of career.”