South African football in 2013

19 December 2013

Undoubtedly the biggest football highlight of 2013 was Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 victory over Spain at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on 19 November. In one of the sport’s biggest upsets of the year, 61st ranked South Africa handed the reigning European and world champions only their second loss in the past two years.

Rugby’s Springboks and cricket’s Proteas had previously beaten world number ones. In fact, they had reached number one, but Bafana Bafana had never before beaten a world number one, and the man whose name will go into the record books was Bernard Parker, who finished a beautifully constructed goal in the 56th minute.

While Parker had a strong claim to the man of the match award, it went to goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune, who seemed to win everything he possibly could in 2013.

Itumeleng Khune

Khune not only led South Africa to victory over Spain, he also led Kaizer Chiefs to their first Premier Soccer League (PSL) title since 2004/05 and the Nedbank Cup title.

As a player, he was also named the Footballer of the Season, the Absa Premiership Player’s Player of the Season, Goalkeeper of the Season and Nedbank Cup Player of the Tournament at the South African Football Awards. To top it all, Khune was named the SA Sports Star of the Year after a public vote.

Bafana Bafana

For Bafana Bafana, 2013 was an up-and-down year. It began with South Africa hosting the Africa Cup of Nations and after a slow start and a goalless draw with Cape Verde the home team brought the competition to life with an impressive 2-0 win over Angola.

In the match of the tournament, Bafana shared an exciting 2-2 draw with Morocco, with Siyabonga Sangweni netting an equaliser four minutes from time, to take South Africa to the top of their group. That set up a quarterfinal clash with highly-rated Mali, who were ranked 25th in the world.

Tokelo Rantie put Bafana ahead about half-an-hour into the game, but Mali found an equaliser in the 58th minute. The match was then decided from the penalty spot and the Eagles came away 3-1 victors, eliminating Bafana from the tournament. Mali went on to lose to eventual champions Nigeria in the semi-finals.

World Cup qualification

South Africa’s efforts to qualify for the 2014 Fifa World Cup came to nought when they suffered a 2-1 loss to Ethiopia away from home, which included a freak own goal by Bernard Parker. Hope arose when the Walia Antelopes were docked three points for fielding an ineligible player in a match against Botswana, but the Ethiopians still held the advantage. Bafana subsequently thrashed Botswana 4-1 in their final qualifier, but when Ethiopia beat the Central African Republic 2-1 in Brazzaville they secured their place in the next round of qualifying.

Later in the year, Bafana were beaten 2-0 by African champions, Nigeria, who won the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge by two goals to nil.

Shortly after their loss to the Super Eagles, Bafana scored a 2-0 win over Africa Cup of Nations runners-up Burkina Faso at the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day, with former Presidents FW de Klerk, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe in attendance.

An away game against Morocco, to open new Agadir Stadium in Agadir City, ended in an entertaining 1-1 draw and that was then followed by Bafana’s historic win over Spain.

Orlando Pirates

While Kaizer Chiefs won the PSL title, their great rivals Orlando Pirates provided South African football fans with plenty of excitement in the Caf Champions League.

They made it to the final by defeating 2009 and 2010 champions TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo 3-2 on aggregate in the second round despite having to deal with a controversial red card awarded to captain Lucky Lekgwathi and two penalties, both of which goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa saved.

They then finished second in their group behind Al Ahly in the group stages to qualify for the semi-finals. The Buccaneers’ results included a 3-0 win over Al Ahly in Cairo and a 4-1 demolition of fellow Egyptians Zamalek at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

Pirates’ reward for reaching the semi-finals was a clash with Tunisia’s Esperance, Champions League winners in 2011 and runners-up in 2012 and 2010. In a tightly contested showdown, the South African club advanced to the final on the away goals’ rule.

Pirates faced Al Ahly again in the two-leg final. They drew the first leg 1-1 in Soweto after scoring a dramatic late equaliser, but then succumbed to their more experienced opponents and an aggressive crowd in Cairo, going down 2-0 to leave Al Ahly 3-1 winners on aggregate.

Cup kings

It was, unfortunately for Pirates, their second defeat of 2013 in a final. They had previously lost out to Platinum Stars in the final of the MTN 8 after a penalty shootout. The string of runners-up finishes was extended when Stars again beat Pirates in the final of the Telkom Knockout Cup, coming from behind to win 2-1. To the Buccaneers’ credit, they were at the very least good enough to reach the finals of three big competitions.

For Platinum Stars, the two cup titles showed the consistency they demonstrated in finishing second to Kaizer Chiefs in the PSL by a single point remained. Their path to the Telkom Knockout Cup final included wins over Chiefs, Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns, South African football’s traditional big three, and showed Dikwena belonged at the top of the game in the Rainbow Nation.

Benni McCarthy retires

During the season, Benni McCarthy, Bafana Bafana’s all-time leading goal scorer, retired in June. On his retirement, he said in a statement: “I retire having represented my country at senior level 80 times and scored a record 31 goals. Two World Cup Finals, in France and Korea/Japan, an Olympic Games and a u-20 World Cup Finals will be memories that live in my heart forever.

“And to have come home to South Africa for a final chapter, and to have won the treble with Orlando Pirates [in 2011/12] was the type of finale that only dreams are made of.”

Banyana Banyana

It was a quiet year for the national women’s team, Banyana Banyana, whose most significant action took place early in the year in the Cyprus Cup.

In a pre-tournament friendly, they drew 2-2 with world number 21 New Zealand, but South Korea then handed Banyana a 2-0 loss in their first game. Against the Republic of Ireland, the South Africans were unlucky, going down 1-0 after striking the woodwork three times in the second half.

They next defeated Northern Ireland 2-1 and ended the competition on a positive note with another victory over the same opposition. It was closer the second time around, with Banyana winning 5-4 from the penalty spot after the teams had played to a 1-1 draw.