There might be light at end of the tunnel

There is some irony in the fact that in the past seven days or so Bafana Bafana have finally had some success in an international competition, but nobody, barring those at the Four Nations tournament in Zambia, was able to see it.

Snippets of highlights from what looked like a handheld video camera in the stands at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola was the best the South African Football Association was able to provide, and it is an indictment of the organisation, and perhaps a reflection of the total lack of leadership right now, that Bafana even went off to what was a last-minute tournament, with no television deal in place.

It also seemed indicative that neither Safa president Danny Jordaan, or CEO Dennis Mumble bothered to show face when Bafana returned on Sunday to OR Tambo international airport with the trophy in tow. Bafana’s success is so infrequent these days that it seems a shame and a surprise that the leaders of the organisation can’t be bothered to turn up to celebrate it with them.

This was, of course, just a friendly competition in Zambia, and may well have little bearing on how Bafana perform in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers later this year. It also in no way makes up for the shambles that was the attempt to qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, for which Stuart Baxter was heavily and correctly criticised.

The victories over Angola and the host nation in Ndola, however, do offer some encouragement for the future, even if we got to see little of them and even if this left us over-reliant on the picture painted of the event by Baxter.

Lebo Mothiba looks, for one, to have offered up a suggestion that he could certainly help out in terms of Bafana’s well-documented goalscoring woes, with two goals in his first two matches for his country, though it would be dangerous to hail the Lille striker as the next Benni McCarthy or Shaun Bartlett ahead of time.

Baxter was keen to point out at the airport on Sunday that Mothiba is still a “raw” talent, but did add that he offers South Africa another option in attack, particularly with his ability to hold up the ball.

Bafana’s defence also seems to have held up pretty well in Zambia, with one mistake from Buhle Mkhwanazi leading to the only goal they conceded. Baxter was also keen to stress that Mkhwanazi had an excellent game after his mistake against Angola, praising his mental strength.

The aim of this competition, the Bafana coach had said before, was more about blooding youngsters in the international cauldron than about the results. To get the best of both worlds, winning the tournament and giving several younger players a chance to perform, has made it just about a perfect week for the national side.

Now it remains to be seen if Bafana can transfer results in friendlies to more frequent meaningful results in competitive football. The win in Nigeria in Baxter’s first game in charge, putting Bafana in a fine position to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, promised much, but the horrible home-and-away defeats to Cape Verde told a different story.

Is this that start of another new dawn? Only time will truly tell.

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