Bafana Bafana Chronicles- Day 3 in Khartoum
Written by Mbali Mokoko
We woke up to another sweltering day in Khartoum on Friday 5 September. With it being match day, there was a sense of anticipation in the air. Despite the fact that Bafana Bafana had had just one practice session, it had been a good two days in the Sudanese capital and all eyes were now on coach Shakes Mashaba, and the starting eleven he would select for the game. Bra Shakes surprised a few of us with the pick of the first eleven: Ajax Cape Town’s Keegan Dolly was handed his debut cap, Bongani Ndulula was back in the starting line-up after a long absence and Senzo Meyiwa was chosen to captain the senior national team for the first time in his career.
Our bus ride to the El Maharachi Stadium was relatively calm. Unlike last year’s Confederation of African Football Champions League final in Cairo, the drive over the blue Nile was peaceful and not one bit intimidating. And this feeling extended to the stadium. Although the Sudanese Minister for Youth and Sports had requested entrance be free for the game in order to drum up support against Bafana, I didn’t feel nearly as intimidated as I did when Orlando Pirates faced Al Ahly in the second leg of the Champions League Final at the Arab constructors Stadium in Egypt. The stadium was full to capacity with firelighters and lasers going off. These are major parts of North African football. On our drive into the stadium precinct, Sudanese fans held up the 3-0 sign almost as if they knew that they would be on the receiving end of the eventual 3-0 score.
Bafana’s game plan was simple: avoid conceding an early goal, sit back and adjust to the heat and then go at them in the second half. It is no surprise then that we were all a bit nervous after the goal in the first half during which Sudan had one or two good chances to open the scoring. What encouraged me though is that I thought the Sudanese goalie, who was also their skipper, looked very suspect. Coach Shakes Mashaba set second half substitutions, which made all the difference. Themba Zwane and Sibuiso Vilikazi came on and immediately Bafana scored a goal to take the lead. A few minutes later Bafana scored their second goal through Vilikazi and the stadium went dead quiet. Barring the handful of celebrating South African fans, it was as though the stadium was empty. And with Bafana attacking, the home side on the back foot and the writing on the wall, the local supporters started leaving as early as the 60th minute.
But the match wasn’t over yet, because a third goal was still to come. And that goal was a football lesson taken out of the South African book of carpet football. For a moment I even thought I was at the Orlando Stadium because every time Oupa ‘Ace’ and Manyisa touched the ball, the crowd chanted “aaaaaaaaaaccccccceeeee aaaaaaaaccccccceeeee.” Wow! Not only did Bafana take the 3 points, but they had also won the locals hearts with an entertaining brand of football. A great performance by Bra Shakes and the boys. But on the Sudanese side, the coach was in trouble. Fans stayed after the game calling for the coach to be sacked on the spot. That’s African football for you.
We left the stadium and went straight to the airport where our charter was waiting. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though because we left two hours late, which meant Bafana would miss their connecting flight from OR Tambo to Cape Town for Wednesday’s match against Nigeria. I’ll be in the Mother City this week and keep you updated.