Bafana Bafana got their mentality right at Afcon, says Mabhuti Khenyeza

South African players celebrate a goal during their Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against Nigeria. Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

South African players celebrate a goal during their Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against Nigeria. Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

Published Feb 10, 2024


Bafana Bafana’s fairly successful Africa Cup of Nations journey did not surprise Golden Arrows head coach Mabhuti Khenyeza.

The South African national team’s dreamy run in the biggest tournament on the continent came to a heartbreaking end as they lost to Nigeria via a penalty shootout in Wednesday’s thrilling semi-final in Bouaké, Ivory Coast.

However, Bafana restored an entire nation’s hope of a possible Afcon title in the near future with their remarkable performances.

Under the guidance of head coach Hugo Broos, Bafana made it past the group stages when it was least expected, and also went on to grab the scalp of CAF’s No 1-ranked nation Morocco in the knock-out rounds.

Bafana went toe to toe with a Super Eagles side mainly composed of Europe-based players, and were arguably the better side over the 120 minutes.

The South Africans reignited hope from within Mzansi, and earned the respect of all the powerhouse nations on the continent.

Khenyeza, who was one of a few football figures in the country to defend a radical Broos last year, said the national team’s run did not come as a shock, given the mentality shift the team have made.

“I’m not surprised (by Bafana’s run) because sometimes we undermine ourselves and (in our minds) we prefer other nations,” he said.

“Football is the same. Whatever you do in South Africa is the same football that’s played in England and Spain, but it’s all about the mentality and how you approach situations.

“I think those boys played very well because of their mentality. They told themselves they’re there to compete, and didn’t care who was supporting or whether there were 20-something people (at the stadium).

“We still need to support them more because it adds a lot of value to our national team.”

The frequently-outspoken Khenyeza represented Bafana 10 times during his playing career, and has maintained his patriotic spirit in football management.

He was on the wrong end of online abuse from some fans around the country, who questioned his allegiance to Broos’ approach at the time.

Following the recent awakening of support towards Broos and Bafana, the 41-year-old KwaZulu-Natal-born mentor revealed that he did not feel vindicated, as his support was always for the national team and not Broos himself.

“I can support each and every one because it’s our country and we watch all the games, whether it’s Hugo Broos or whoever (is the coach),” he explained.

“We’ve supported the previous coaches that have been there as well, and we watched all those games – and sometimes you even forget who the coach is because we watch the national team.

“My statement before was in support of the team and the level at which it has been rising.”

Bafana will play their last game of the tournament when they tackle DR Congo in the third-place play-off tonight (10pm SA time kick-off).

The DStv Premiership will return to action on Tuesday, while Arrows will face Mamelodi Sundowns on Wednesday.


IOL Sport