The 2017 Confederations Cup begins in a little over two weeks in Russia. Often considered the “warm-up” tournament to the World Cup, it has also been a tournament that provides competitive and memorable matches, especially involving teams that aim to demonstrate their ability against teams that are serious contenders to win the World Cup. I think about the 2009 Confederations Cup, the very first one I watched, the first one of its kind to be held in Africa.
The fearlessness of Bafana Bafana
Other than the constant buzz of the vuvuzelas ringing through the television (a sound I thoroughly enjoyed, maybe because I heard it so much I was conditioned to associate that sound with a football game) the host nation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa, put up a valiant effort in a tough group with Spain, along with Iraq and New Zealand.
Bafana Bafana defeated New Zealand comfortably, two goals from Bernard Parker, after a scoreless draw against Iraq in the first group game. Although South Africa lost 2-0 to Spain in their final group game, they were runners-up and faced the winners of Group B in the semi-finals: Brazil.
I vaguely remember this game, but I do remember how devastated I was that South Africa narrowly lost, conceding an unstoppable Dani Alves free-kick four minutes before full-time. It would’ve been nice to see an African team in the final of an international competition. But one thing to look forward to was the third place match, and Group A rematch, with Spain.
This game, on the other hand, I remember vividly. I recall the magnificent performance of a guy I’ve never heard of: Katlego Mphela. He gave Bafana Bafana the surprise lead in the 73rd minute. However, striker Daniel Güiza for Spain scored two quick goals before injury time to seemingly seal the deal for the Spaniards. But in the third minute of injury time, Bafana Bafana had one last chance to equalize and send it to extra time with a long-range free-kick. Katlego Mphela stepped up. Let’s just say he did something special:
Promise of African Football
This game cemented my love for Bafana Bafana and their fighting spirit against international football’s elite teams. It made me believe in the promise of African football and how they can challenge any tough opponent if they are up to it. Hopefully, in this year’s Confederations Cup, Cameroon can upset the likes of Germany or Chile to reach the finals.