‘Nigeria were always mocking Bafana Bafana’ – South Africa coach reveals

Reflecting on the history between Nigeria's Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana, South Africa coach Helman Mkhalele highlighted the journey of his team leading up to their 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) clash with the Super Eagles on Wednesday.

In the year 2000, during the semifinals at AFCON, Nigeria defeated South Africa, securing their place in the finals of the competition, only to face defeat against Cameroon.

Ahead of the clash with South Africa, Nigeria entered the match as underdogs, given South Africa's previous triumph in the 1996 tournament and their runner-up position two years later.

Mkhalele acknowledged the journey of growth and progress.

South Africa coach recalls Super Eagles abuse

Despite facing scepticism and criticism from Nigerian counterparts early on, South Africa's footballing prowess has steadily developed, narrowing the gap and earning respect on the continental stage.

“Going forward from 2000, Nigerians were always mocking us and saying bad things, but fortunately, over the years, we started to close the gap,” the 54-year old South Africa coach Mkhalele stated.

“Even now, today I still believe that as much as they claim dominance, they are no longer claiming it with that same confidence.

“So that is what I believe our players will just carry (into the game) because they just want to make history for themselves.”

His words highlight a shift in the balance of power and the determination within the Bafana Bafana camp to seize the opportunity to etch their own mark in history.

What you need to know about South Africa coach Mkhalele

Mkhalele had a distinguished career with the national team before he was South Africa coach, amassing 66 caps and scoring eight goals.

He was a key member of the Bafana Bafana squad that competed in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France and was instrumental in South Africa's triumph in the 1996 African Cup of Nations.

Making his international debut on November 26, 1994, against Ghana at the age of 25 years and 37 days, Mkhalele's tenure with the national team spanned six years and 160 days, with his final appearance coming on May 5, 2001, against Zimbabwe, aged 31 years and 197 days.

His contributions to South African football are further commemorated by the naming of townships, such as Mkhelele (also known as Evaton West) in Evaton, situated in the southern region of Johannesburg.

South Africa coach
Photo by Icon sport

South Africa coach reveals Maseko injury setback

The Mamelodi Sundowns forward Thapelo Maseko has been ruled out of the AFCON 2024 due to injury. The 20-year-old pulled his hamstring muscle in the quarter-final clash with Cape Verde last Saturday.

He entered the game as a substitute but sustained an injury during extra time, while Bafana Bafana ultimately secured victory in the contest through a penalty shootout.

In a recent update regarding the injured player, Hugo Broos provided insights into the situation.

Broos informed the media, “A little update about the injured player Thapelo Maseko. So, he has muscle injury grade three. So, the tournament is almost finished, but he stays with us. He doesn’t go to South Africa.”

Broos continued to explain the team's decision not to replace Maseko, citing logistical challenges with visa and flight arrangements for a potential replacement.

He emphasised the team's confidence in resolving any issues internally, stating,

“We don’t want to do that, and we have the opportunity to solve the problem in the group. For that, Thapelo will not be replaced.”

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu is a purpose-driven Ghanaian sports writer with a sharp eye for excellence. He has had stints with www.kickgh.com inkandkicks.com and ghanafans.com. He loves to talk and write about football on the African continent.