Cape Town — With the second half of the Premier Soccer League's season due to start in a few weeks, Bafana Bafana captain Ronwen Williams urged players to work hard at their clubs to be in good shape for international matches when they come around.
The next FIFA window for internationals will be 21-29 March. CAF have scheduled the 2022 World Cup final qualifying round for that slot. Ten teams will be playing for the five slots allocated to CAF at the World Cup in Qatar in November.
The outcome of the South African Football Association's (SAFA) appeal to FIFA is still not known. Last December, FIFA dismissed the appeal to replay the match against Ghana. SAFA had the right to appeal the verdict and have done so.
It is unlikely that FIFA will change its verdict, and SAFA will use the period for Bafana Bafana to play two international friendlies.
Williams said that Bafana Bafana have made great strides under the former Afcon-winning coach Hugo Broos. He said four-time Afcon winners Ghana were expected to cruise to victory in Group G of the World Cup qualifiers, but it was not the case. In the end, Ghana advanced to the final qualifying because they scored one goal more after both teams finished the group stage with 13 points.
"The future looks bright for Bafana Bafana," said Williams, Bafana Bafana's No 1 choice goalkeeper. "We have grown in confidence and will continue believing.
"Over the last few months, we have done amazing work and exceeded expectations.
"We need to focus on the upcoming games during the FIFA break in March. The players must continue to work hard for their clubs, and when the time comes, we will be ready to continue the progress."
Soon after Broos was appointed national coach, he named Williams the new Bafana Bafana captain. Williams, who also captains SuperSport United, said he was well-prepared for the role and did not find it was particularly challenging.
"Captaining South Africa is a massive honour, and I have taken the post with both hands," said Williams.
"I know the pressures that it comes with captaining your national team because all eyes are on you.
"I have enjoyed the role, and the main thing is the respect I have for my fellow players and the technical team, and the respect they show in return.
"It has not been too big a challenge because I have been part of the set-up, and I know how things work.
"There are massive differences between captaining your club versus your national team. In the case of the national team, it does not get bigger because you are the captain for millions – the whole country."
The Port Elizabeth-born Williams is passionate about amateur soccer because he feels it is a much-needed nursery for the professional game. He recalled that the amateur ranks in Port Elizabeth unearthed talents like himself, Daine Klate and Kermit Erasmus (both former Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana).
Last month, Williams was invited to address the guests at the launch of the Discovery Walter Sisulu Challenge in Sandton. He said the country has an abundance of talent and hoped the tournament would spread its wings to other parts of the country.
"It would be wonderful if the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge could stage tournaments elsewhere in South Africa," said Williams. "We see the scouts coming out every year, and I'm hoping that the tournament will come to PE.
"I want to appeal to Discovery to look at expanding the tournament throughout the country because the talent in this country is huge."
A few weeks ago, there was speculation that Orlando Pirates have set their sights on Williams. He, however, has no interest in changing clubs.
"I have heard our chairman Khulu Sibiya and Mr Stanley Matthews say that I am not for sale," said Williams. "Why would they ever want to lose their prized asset - a player who has been at the club since he was 12 years old.
"I am fine with that. I am the club captain and have been here for the last 17 years. I am happy to be part of this club and lead such a massive team."