Well done Dean!
The performance by Bafana Bafana against Cape Verde was deeply awful. It was like watching the first twenty minutes of the 2010 World Cup opener against Mexico again, only worse! We were lucky to draw on Saturday. In fact we were lucky to get nil! The ineptitude shown plunged the country into deep depression.
Then came Angola and what a difference! From the off there was a lightness of touch about Bafana Bafana and you could see that going for the win trumped fear of losing. It is ironic that in a country that strikes at the drop of a hat we can't seem to do it in soccer. Regardless of this, the effect on people since the win has been extraordinary. Even the curmudgeons seem to smile a bit since the victory and window flags are now appearing for sale on the side of the roads. Well done to the team and management. Please use this win as a base to qualify tomorrow and then you are but three wins away from ultimate victory. Think about that and what it would do to our morale. If we qualify let's get those flags onto our cars. Just like 2010...
Dean Furman was simply terrific. We had heard that he was a workhorse but might be out of his depth at this level. From the start he put that rumour to bed. He roamed around central midfield and made a nuisance of himself. How he could keep up the punishing work rate in that heat, having come from an English winter, is a mystery. He ran, tackled and jumped at everything that moved and showed skill on the ball as well. And vision. Listening to him being interviewed this week it is also clear that he is a modest young man with a strong team ethic. A few more games like that and he won't be with Oldham for long. Furman, Mahlangu and Serrero, if he is fit, has an exciting look to it doesn't it? I can't wait for Morocco.
In a country that, sadly but understandably, is obsessed with race, it is good to see a white player in the side. I can hardly believe I am writing this but let me explain. The whole idea of transformation is to work to change the profile of sports in which discrimination was widely practiced. That was the case in rugby and cricket and this is the reason for such sensitivities about sides and their profiles. Our major soccer league since its inception, and the National side since re-entry, have never had such a policy. As such it doesn't matter a toss who is selected as long as it is on merit. Unfortunately there is a reactionary element in South Africa that has used the recent profile of Bafana Bafana to rail against the whole concept, let alone the mechanisms, of transformation. They completely miss the point but are vocal when the subject is raised in discussion. Of course there is no perfect system for transformation and selection is often subjective anyway but when the profile of a team continues to reflect the old South Africa rather than the new it does draw attention to the sport. Development, opportunity, funding and coaching within that particular sport will be questioned. This is fair enough. However selection itself at the top must be on merit. That is a lesson we have learnt.
Somehow it just looks better when a mlungu or two are in Bafana Bafana. Symbolically the world can then see South Africans from the old different backgrounds working together representing the whole country. The fact that Hashim Amla happens to be a Muslim is nice for the same reason. We see religious tolerance in action in sport. Dean Furman happens to be Jewish and all week Jewish listeners to 702 have been claiming links and distant relationships to the midfielder. The more inclusive the team the more united we feel.
However, I repeat, selection at the top must be ruthlessly on merit or all credibility disappears.
Mind you, in terms of realising potential, does Safa ever look at why so many white kids happen to fall away after brilliant junior careers in the sport? There might just be more Dean Furman's out there to discover.
John Robbie is the presenter of the John Robbie Show on Talk Radio 702.
This column appeared in the Saturday Star.