16 January 2013

South Africa: Bafana Bafana Encouraged By President Zuma Visit

Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix
Anele Ngcongca of South Africa, left, tangles with Heldon of Cape Verde during opening match of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations finals.

The AFCON fever has hit South Africa and with the opening match coming up this Saturday the country is awash with expectation and the teams are jetting in for Africa's greatest sporting showcase. Hosts Bafana Bafana kick start the tournament against Cape Verde and on Wednesday, 15 January 2013 and the team received a major boost ahead of the match when South African President Jacob Zuma visited the team during their training session.

President Zuma led at team that included Minister of Sport and Recreation South Africa Fikile Mbalula and his deputy Gert Oosthuizen and top SAFA officials. President Zuma brought a word of encouragement to Bafana Bafana telling them that despite some critics who are predicting that the team will not do well he was satisfied that the team is ready and this was evident from the team's recent performance in warm up games. President went on to say "The entire country is behind you even those that are currently not so confident about Bafana Bafana.

In reply Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said "It is a privilege when the president of the country takes time from his busy schedule to come meet and encourage the players. Such support is very important and fantastic for all of us in the team. We really feel honoured"

Meanwhile African champions Zambia gave their blessings to their key defender Stopilla Sunzu to go to UK for a trial with Premiership side Reading less than a week before AFCON 2013 final kicks off. 23 year old Sunzu is a key component player for the defending champions but Football Association of Zambia president Kalusha Bwalya said about the arrangement, "The Zambia national team will always be there but opportunities like this do not come around often in a player's career so we were happy to let him go," said Bwalya

"We have agreed between ourselves, TP Mazembe ( Sunzu's current club) and with Reading, that we give him this opportunity to take up this chance. Reading were quite insistent on seeing him so it is a good sign," said Bwalya. "Ultimately it is advantageous to our team to have players from clubs at the highest level."

Sunzu is expected to join up with the rest of the Chipolopolo squad by Friday 18th January in South Africa as part of the agreement reached by the parties concerned. Zambia kicks off its title defence against Ethiopia on 21st January at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

Burkina Faso team preparing for AFCON 2013 finals will also be missing winger Jonathan Pitroipa for some time when he returns to France to play for Stade Rennes as they attempt to reach the French League Cup final against Montpellier on Wednesday. Pitroipa is scheduled to rejoin the National team in South Africa on Thursday in time to face Nigeria in their Group C first game. Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia have been drawn in the same group.

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