South Africa lost 2-1 to Ghana in the final Group C match on Tuesday, 27 January. The match took place at Stade de Mongomo.
This is what Minister Mbalulala said…
We would like to thank Equatorial Guinea for a great tournament and hospitality. I think AFCON 2015 lived up to great expectations of the great African tournament. It was a warm tournament to us South Africans who have been here. Secondly we would like to convey our word of appreciation and concede defeat to Ghana for a job well done. Congratulations to them and good luck for the future. Now we reinstate BaGhana BaGhana, and with that we hope they will go on and win the tournament.
We have come here but we couldn’t conquer, from the first match to the last one, from my own observation, the humble lesson we learnt is that the first match is very important in a tournament like this one. You play like it is a final because teams in the second and third game they pick up and get their rhythm, they have studied you very well and they know how to counter you. And in this particular instance, it is exactly what happened and I think the boys will get stronger. This defeat itself must humble South Africa and make us to calm down and sharpen our spears going forward.
We don’t need to go back to the drawing board, we need to consolidate our gains and build our national team. We have the material, we have the foundation, boys who believe and I think this will strengthen them. Most of the players here is their first at AFCON and they really carried themselves very well. I salute this team of players and I want to encourage them to continue to believe in their own country and play for the national team. I just want to say, philosophically, if it as not meant to be, you have to let it go.
I thought yesterday Bafana Bafana can defend one, and score the second, it didn’t happen. I think we were playing against a Ferrari in this tournament where I believe it was the hardest match for us. I think Ghana believed in themselves, they wanted it more especially after they heard that Algeria had scored two goals. Ghana fought because the belief was there that they could go to the second round. Congratulations to them and our way ends here.
We will go back and face the reality that we must continue to build a formidable side and learn from this competition, good lessons and take constructive criticism and build forward. There is no reason to put the head down. There is no reason for the coach and the boys to drop their heads. All they need to do is to accept some criticism and that will build the team.
I spoke to the team last night after the math and they do understand where we are heading to.
And I want to thank South Africans from all walks of life for really coming to the party when we asked them to support the team. They did so even so far away from home, through twitter, Facebook and everything else. They not only supported our national team but also believed we can win because we are a winning nation. I just want to tell them that there are many opportunities ahead in soccer, we have AFCON 2017 coming and we have FIFA World Cup 2018. This moment must not define the cul-de-suc and the end, but instead strengthen a collective experience as well as individual experience of players to move forward as a team.
We need to understand that football by goals in a tournament, the experience of the tournament is different from the qualifiers, over and above that in a tournament like this you need to take your chances and if you don’t you will be gone – it is what it is.
We came here with high hopes. Probably there was a lot on the minds of the players and everybody with the possibility, after such glorious performance building up to the tournament, after so many years of drought and I think it crept into our minds that the pressure of success, not complacence, and it caught up with us. We need to consolidate our forward momentum.
I think the team was united in its effort and was defeated as a collective. Going forward, I think most of the players in the current squad will form the nucleus of Bafana Bafana and you can probably add up with others who were not here.
But I disagree with anyone who says so and so was not here, no player must ever have a guarantee for selection and be called a hero when he has not even kicked a ball. These boys earned their stripes to get where they are They fought a difficult battle starting in Sudan until meeting a formidable side Nigeria to be here. Those who were not here were not here, they might be considered going forward.
I think it is really unpatriotic to say the least, and we need to encourage players themselves to be patriotic and to perform in their clubs in order for them to be selected. Some of them won’t come back to the next camp and they will lift themselves going forward.
The sparkles are there, the ingredients are, we just need to consolidate, just like great nations.
When you go to a battle, you learn your lessons.
I think our team has learnt a lot. We are disappointed and I met them yesterday and I know they are also disappointed that they could not make it. But you must accept to be defeated by the best in tournament.
Ghana played the game of their lives. They scored two goals in ten minutes, I think that is the best performance ever, and I think we can learn from that. The spirit, the courage to believe, the determination to succeed was there. Our boys were soaking it up but it was difficult.
What is encouraging me is that our boys have learnt. To accept defeat and concede that we made mistakes is a good thing.
In a journey there are detours and ups and downs. Sometimes you might think you will reach your destination but you don’t do so at the time that you planned. And next time you plan very well, knowing very well that you must never take anything for granted.
I as a Minister of Sport am encouraged by the level of football in South Africa. I will quote President Zuma in his famous song “isende lendlela esiyihambayo” but let’s walk this road together South Africa with Shakes and his boys and we will get where we want to be.
I will give my report to Shakes and to SAFA and they must take it from there. It will be motivated by my observations. I never do that but I just want to share my thoughts, and I don’t want anything in return with the rest of the team and to consolidate our forward momentum as a nation. I think it is important for Shakes because that is constructive.
All I am saying to them is that you have an important foundation, build on it don’t destroy it.
There are people who think things are like instant coffee cream. Football is not like that, especially when you are building because maybe had we gone all the way we would have thought we have made it.
In our journey we must be strengthened by our participation in this tournament.
I thank you.