Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bafana Bafana - Fact sheet

South Africa - Team Fact Sheet

10 Interesting Facts about Bafana Bafana, South Africa's World Cup Hopefuls!

When you think of South Africa, you think of Nelson Mandela, apartheid, Robben Island, Table Mountain, Shaka Zulu, Soweto, diamonds, gold mines, HIV/AIDS, wildlife, crime, jazz, corruption, braais, biltong, carjacking, cricket and rugby.

But with the World Cup on their home soil in 2010, South Africans plan to make a name for themselves in football as well. This multi-lingual nation of 43 million is football crazy. They're obsessed with their local favourites (Orlando Pirates & Kaiser Chiefs), their foreign favourites (Man U & Liverpool) and their own national side, whose wildly varying fortunes have kept the country on edge.

They are proud to host the 2010 World Cup and thrilled to welcome the world to their beautiful country. They pray (literally) that their team will make it past the First Round and have an impact on the tournament. And since South Africa is no stranger to miracles, everyone's got hope. And as we all know, you never count out the home team.

So here's the top 10 facts you need to know about the South African football team:

10. The South African football team's nickname is Bafana Bafana (The Boys The Boys), a fun diminutive that has perhaps held them back from performing as "The Men The Men." But no mind, we love Bafana.

9. South Africa went to its first World Cup in 1998. In it they drew even against Denmark and Saudi Arabia, but got mauled by hosts France 3-0. Let's see if Bafana can return the favour. Watch out France!

8. South Africa has never advanced beyond the First Round in its two previous appearances in the World Cup. Sad but true. In their second appearance in Korea and Japan in 2002, they beat Slovenia 1-0 (yes!), tied Paraguay 2-2 (hmmm), then lost to Spain 3-2 (nooo!). They had to pack up immediately. Back to the drawing board.

7. South Africa won the African Cup of Nations trophy in 1996. Here's that old hometown advantage thing again. South Africa hosted its first Africa Cup and kept the spoils. Even though Egypt got the drop on them in their early match, South Africa beat Cameroon, Angola, Algeria, Ghana, and finally Tunisia to lift the Cup. It was their most glorious victory yet. We're hoping for an even bigger one in 2010.

6. Benni McCarthy is South Africa's top scorer with 31 goals. A big personality, he's had numerous public spats with the national football organization and the revolving door of coaches. But as the most talented striker in the country, he's far too valuable to leave on the sidelines. He plays for the Blackburn Rovers, but has also been with Ajax, Porto and Celta Vigo. He says he's gonna deliver for South Africa - we hope he does!

5. Aaron Mokoena, the captain, is also the most capped player with 92 caps. Known as Mbazo (The Axe), this centre-back has been with the national side since 1999. A member of the Portsmouth club, Mokoena is known as a tough tackler. We look forward to him showing his stuff on home soil.

4. The South African team was banned by FIFA during much of apartheid. Virtually all South African sporting organizations were banned from international competition. FIFA only re-instated South Africa toward the end of apartheid in 1991 when real political reforms were made. The 1990s were a high period for South African sport as the rugby, cricket and football teams all performed well.

3. FIFA ranked South Africa 86th before the 2010 World Cup. Right behind Haiti! They are the lowest ranked team of the 32. But no worries. They're on home soil. Pride's on the line. We've got faith!

2. World Cup winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira of Brazil has returned to coach South Africa for a second time. After quitting in 2008 due to an illness in the family, he was lured back only a year later to see if he could get The Boys into shape. He's one of 10 coaches that South Africa has hired since 2000. No one can even keep track anymore. Read more about South Africa's Soccer Coach.

1. South Africa automatically qualified for the 2010 World Cup because it is hosting the tournament. Sadly, it is doubtful they would have qualified without this assistance. But hey, who cares? They're in it - and they're in it to win it!

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