There can be no doubt Bafana Bafana deserve a heroes’ welcome when they arrive at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday, fresh from picking up a bronze medal at the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast.
Cynics may say ticker tape parades should be reserved for champions, but if you look at how Hugo Broos’ side have defied the odds to exceed expectations at this competition, the it would be grossly unfair for their achievement not to be celebrated in some way.
A squad made up largely of locally-based players took down the number one side in Africa, Morocco, and pushed Nigeria all the way in the semifinals. After two games of 120 minutes, Bafana then somehow found the energy to take down DR Congo and bring home a first AFCON bronze medal in 24 years.
When Bafana arrive back in Johannesburg on Wednesday, however, as it stands, some ludicrous scheduling means there are unlikely to be too many people present. Bafana are scheduled to land at OR Tambo at 4am on Valentine’s Day, severly diminishing the chances of fans hanging from the rafters like they were when the Springboks came back with the Rugby World Cup trophy.
If it is a matter of cost to the South African Football Association, that a better time of arrival cannot be found for Bafana, then surely a sponsor could intervene and get these players the welcome they deserve?
Maybe fans will defy the odds and get out of bed early to make it to the airport. But this does seem an absurd situation, that could easily be avoided.
The PSL’s lack of forward thinking
Safa’s scheduling, however, in no way excuses the Premier Soccer League for the statement they issued on Sunday, announcing that this week’s DStv Premiership matches had been cancelled, because of the date of Bafana’s arrival.
“Following receipt of communication indicating that Bafana Bafana will only return to South Africa from their successful AFCON trip on Wednesday February 14, the Premier Soccer League has decided to postpone all DStv Premiership fixtures originally scheduled for midweek (13 and 14 February 2024),” read a part of the statement.
So no one at the PSL stopped to think, once Bafana reached the semifinals (they sealed a last four spot when they beat Cape Verde on February 3), that they were going to be in the Ivory Coast until Sunday at the absolute earliest? And if they did the PSL thought what, that Bafana’s players could arrive back on Monday and be ready to play for their teams on Tuesday or Wednesday?
This is palpable nonsense, and for the PSL to act on Sunday as if Bafana’s arrival date had caught them by surprise speaks of an organisation that did zero forward planning. It also speaks of a league that had little faith in how well Bafana would do at the AFCON, given how close they scheduled these games to the end of the tournament.
This is particularly interesting given how many of Bafana’s players ply their trade in the DStv Premiership. Maybe all this also has something to do with Safa and the PSL never seeming to sing from the same hymn sheet.
Bafana head coach Hugo Broos was clearly not impressed with the PSL’s decision not to grant Safa’s request to stop the season on December 23. Is this statement the PSL’s revenge? Either way it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.