Bartlett – it’s time for Bafana Bafana to step back into the limelight
'We can't be outdone by rugby and cricket all the time,' said the former Bafana striker.
Shaun Bartlett believes Bafana Bafana must step up and qualify for the 2026 Fifa World Cup. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Shaun Bartlett is tired of seeing Bafana Bafana live in the shadows of world rugby champions the Springboks and the national cricket team the Proteas.
The legendary striker was part of a successful Bafana team in a period where South Africa were crowned African champions in 1996 and secured back-to-back world cup qualifications in 1998 and 2002.
Bafana will begin their quest to qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup with tricky assignments against Benin at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday followed by a trip to Rwanda.
The team has made progress under Hugo Broos after securing qualification to next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast, but Bartlett believes Bafana have the ability to compete against the best in the world.
“We have worked very hard to qualify for the AFCON next year. The World Cup qualifiers are coming up and it’s important for us to get that under our belt as well,” he said in an interview with Phakaaathi.
“It’s been a while since we have been to a World Cup. So we need this and we can’t be outdone by rugby and cricket all the time. We have enough talent in this country and enough ability in order to get us to the World Cup.
“It’s been disappointing over the last few years and we can’t keep saying that we are rebuilding because we’ve got enough talent to get us into the next stage.”
A call for more support
The former Charlton Athletic striker has also called on the public to support the team in their pursuit of a World Cup berth in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
“It’s easy to say that we need to bring back that invincibility when playing at home but we can only do that with the support of the fans also,” he said.
“Because it’s been disappointing to watch some of the games and there aren’t even a few thousands in stands to watch the game. It is national pride and you can see it with other sporting codes that even when they go through a slump, fans still support them.
“I think we should do the same as former players and Bafana Bafana legends to go with the fans and support the players because that’s all they need at this moment in time in order to overcome what they are going through. With time I think everyone will understand that it will come together and it’s all about timing. I think this is our time to qualify (for the World Cup) and to really go far in the AFCON tournament.”