Wednesday, 09 June 2010

Thoughts on the lead up to the opening game of the World cup... under 2 days to go!

So as Wednesday evening comes to pass there is just one day to go before the Football World Cup commences. There is definitely no shortage of support and encouragement for the host nation. A massive event was organised by a couple of radio stations and at noon today there was a parade through the streets of Sandton with the team in an open-top a bus. Thousands of fans turned out, and throughout the country people were hooting and blowing on their vuvuzelas at noon (though I didn't quite understand what that achieved... perhaps to spread the excitement).

However... one must ask the question... why is there a celebratory event involving the team 2 days before the tournament commences? The first match against Mexico is a test for the team, so one has to ask if they aren't better off either training/resting and remaining focussed for the big challenge that lies ahead? Usually a student who's about to sit for a major exam avoids external distractions in the lead up to the day of assessment and spends time concentrating on how best to prepare for it.

These sentiments were echoed by the coach Carlos Alberto Perreira when interviewed by Supersport on the bus. Let me just say that if there's one guy I support in the Bafana Bafana setup it is Carlos, his recent press statements have been awesome, just shows the man has vast experience and understands football. Whatever happens in the tournament I sincerely hope that he does not criticised for the teams performance cause it is clear that he has done his part. This is what he had to say about the parade, "I have mixed feelings... It is the first time I've ever seen a parade before a match..." (and he's from Brazil!). On being asked if the whole team would be coming for the parade he responded, "No, it is not advisable to have the whole team two days before a big game like this... Where is the football in this, tell me?" And like I said previously I couldn't agree with him more, he was the only person interviewed whose words showed that he was grounded and could see the bigger picture unlike everyone else who was just swept away in the excitement. I'm glad he's the coach.

The parade was a good idea... for the public to celebrate the world cup coming... but I can't help feeling that a significant contingent of the population aren't really excited for the football, and that's what this is all about... the Football world cup, not the opening ceremony or the parades. I fear that its going to be a huge anti-climax for them once the games begin.

I also worry for those who have unrealistic expectations for the Bafana side, the fact is they are in a really challenging group. Both France and Uruguay are previous winners of the tournament, Mexico has advanced past the group stage in the last four world cups and have looked very impressive in the friendly matches against England, Netherlands and Italy prior to their arrival. In fact I reckon that Mexico and not France will top Group A.

My aspirations for Bafana are much more realistic, they're guaranteed three matches and they can do the nation proud by playing good football and scoring goals, they've only ever won a match once before in a world cup (beating Slovenia 1- 0 in 2002), if they manage 1 victory and 2 draws to put them second in the group this time round that'll be a massive feat.

To be selected to represent your country is a rare privilege, to do so at a World Cup hosted in your own country... now that's a 'Once in a Lifetime' opportunity, I just hope the boys realise this and perform to the best of their ability.

Ayeye Bafana Ayeye!

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