The competition, quaintly called Chan, is for stay-at-home African players who compete in their own local leagues, effectively ruling out a large slice of the continent’s superstars, who have opted for the bright lights and big-money rewards elsewhere in the footballing world.
Even the most cynical would have started to believe Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s trumpeted prediction that victory was already ours.
With South Africa enjoying home advantage as hosts and the clubs finally coming to the party and freeing their players, national coach Gordon Igesund was able to pick pretty much a frontline Bafana Bafana.
It all got off to a rousing start with Bernard Parker grabbing a brace and Hlompho Kekana scoring a stunner as Bafana came back from a goal down to record a 3 – 1 opening win over Mozambique.
It was set up perfectly. Three points secured, another three beckoning seductively in the second game against Mali, and – with a spot in the knockout phase secured – a golden opportunity to give the fringe players a run against Nigeria.
Then, as has so often been the case with Bafana, it all went terribly pear-shaped in a scrappy 1-1 draw, where our goalkeeping captain Itumeleng Khune was extremely lucky to escape a red card for an injudicious challenge on Abdoulaye Sissoko.
Instead of cruising comfortably into the business end, Bafana now face the very real threat of elimination if they lose to Nigeria in Cape Town tomorrow – and, as expected, Mali beat Pool A whipping boys Mozambique.
It is clearly not a situation this country should be in and would surely end Mbalula’s self-appointed career as a tipster.
No rational person could have seen this coming, but history should tell us there is little rational about Bafana. There is nothing left now but hope.