4 February 2013

South Africa: Statement By the Minister of Sport and Recreation South Africa, Mr Fikile April Mbalula, MP, On Bafana Bafana's Early Exit From the 2013 Afcon Tournament

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Bafana Bafana our national team, the nascent, young, embryonic symbol of perseverance and success bowed out of the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 with pride, dignity, honour epitomised by their gallant fight for a place in the semi-finals.

Bafana Bafana, though starting from a low base, they lifted themselves by their boots-straps as their performance showed marked improvement and incrementally restored the nation's confidence and belief in them. We have come this far in this Tournament through a combination of a plethora of complimentary factors.

Chief amongst these are:

The sheer tenacity of Bafana Bafana in the play-ground against Angola and Cape Verde. Even on that lamentable Saturday evening in which we lost on penalties we were the better side.

The admirable flawless execution and relentless mastery of the game plan and go to war strategy by our political leadership, the SAFA leadership, the coach and his technical team.

The distinctive and magical never-die spirit of the South African people who filled the stadiums, watched Bafana Bafana in public viewing places, in the comfort of their homes in and around the country.

It was indeed our aim and intention to progress much further in the Tournament, however we lost to a highly ranked Team in Africa. It has been a long, long, long weekend to many football fans and fellow patriots. The entire nation is waking up this Monday to that unpalatable reality that our Team is out of this Tournament. We accept our people's disappointment as a natural reaction of all human beings in the aftermaths of a bruising battle.

However there are further battles to be fought ahead of us and the war is yet to be won. We need to extricate ourselves from any feeling of self-pity and hopelessness and focus the on the challenges that lie ahead. Its time now for all role-players in football to go back to the drawing board. We have started the building blocks on a positive note and can see a ray of hope looming large in the horizon. We need to draw our lessons from this AFCON Tournament as we prepare for the qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil.

But we need to urgently work on an overall and comprehensive long term strategy for scientific athlete development plan. Arising from lessons drawn from this AFCON and our assessment of the general capabilities and short-comings of our Team, the Ministry of Sport and Recreation South Africa will join hands with SAFA in addressing the following areas:

We will solicit expert and scientific advice from leading thinkers in the field of sports sciences with a view to examine in a holistic sense the size, shape and strengths of our football players, nutrition, access to modern technology, sports psychology, early childhood preparations for high performance sports, and so on.

We will as we have started, encourage the cross-pollination of ideas between SAFA and the highly successful codes in continental and global competitions such as rugby and cricket. We must as a matter of urgency convene a workshop with a view to ensuring that all come into addressing these issue in a directed and focused manner taking into account peculiarities, the culture and discipline of each sporting code.

We will ask the recently established SAFA Development Agency to present its plans and interventions to the first Minister and Members of Executive Councils Meeting (MINMEC) in 2013 with a view to ensuring that the Provinces do play a leading role in addressing the challenges facing football and sport in general in our country.

Our urgent intervention to deliver this is of high importance by all of us, with the brazil world cup taking place. Bafana Bafana and authorities must understand that there is no FIFA plan B for South Africa to host the event if Brazil is not hosting. Like other teams, Bafana-Bafana must qualify, and for this to happen, we must execute our responsibilities for the better of this code of sport in the country.

We end by saluting Bafana Bafana for fighting a good fight and exiting the tournament holding their heads high. We salute the coach and his team for guiding the team through a highly competitive, with adrenalin flowing and exciting tournament.

We once more express our gratitude to the people of South Africa for flying the flag high and for their patriotic support and solidarity to our National Football Team. Our people were the locomotive that propelled Bafana Bafana to the quarter finals of the AFCON 2013 Tournament.

We must as we have done over the past three weeks unflinchingly support all the teams that are participating in the semi-finals and the finals. We must in the true spirit of Ubuntu attend in our thousands and fill the stadiums. As the Tournament is reaching a climax and a crescendo, there is still more exciting football to be played and we must all be part of it until the closing ceremony, which will be nothing less or short of a razzmatazz and humdinger.

Thank you very much!

Issued by: Sport and Recreation South Africa

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