Our national Under-23 men’s soccer team are back in the country after failing to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games at the CAF Under-23 Championship in Morocco, and coach Shakes Mashaba admits that the team let the nation down.
South Africa played three matches, drawing against Ivory Coast and Gabon ÔÇô the two games ended in a 1-1 draw ÔÇôand lost 2-0 against Egypt in their last game.
“Football is about scoring and winning matches and we did not do that, but I am proud of these boys for giving it their all,” said Mashaba. “They really showed character; after all we did not spend much time together preparing for this tournament.
“We wanted to win badly but it was not to be, and if you saw the number of chances we got, you will agree that the problem remains goal scoring issue; and this is an entire South African problem. We let people down but I would like to say I hope there will be a next time where we can do better,” said Mashaba.
The team was welcomed at the OR Tambo International Airport by South African Football Association (SAFA) President Kirsten Nematandani, SAFA Vice President Mandla Mazibuko and SAFA CEO Dr Robin Petersen.
“We had high hopes for this team as we felt this mission was achievable, but it was not to be. However, we are still proud of the boys as they gave a good account of themselves,” said Nematandani.
“Bafana Bafana will not be at the 2012 Afcon, now the Under-23 squad will not be in London. That calls for a serious introspection to look into where South African football is going. We are planning to have a National Technical Conference where we are going to look deep into the challenges facing us. All the experts of the game will be present and we will also invite FIFA,” said Nematandani.
He also said that a high-powered South African delegation will be meeting CAF to engage them on aligning their calendar with the rest of the world.
The delegation will consist of Nematandani, Dr Danny Jordaan, Dr Irvin Khoza, Dr Petersen and Mazibuko.
“We feel it’s important that we have this gathering because every decision on fixtures that CAF makes impacts on us, and in most cases it impacts negatively. We are hoping this meeting will alleviate some of the challenges we have in terms of preparing our teams, both at national team and club level,” added Nematandani.
SAFA Vice President Mazibuko also thanked everyone for their support to the team, in particular the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula as well as the league for allowing some of the players to take part in the tournament which did not fall under the FIFA Calendar.