Senzo casts shadow on CAF awards
Harare – Slain Bafana Bafana skipper Senzo Meyiwa could cast his huge shadow, on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Awards Gala night in Lagos, Nigeria, on January 8 next year, from his Chesterville grave in KwaZulu Natal.
Bafana Bafana, for whom Meyiwa kept four clean sheets in their 2015 Nations Cup qualifiers, could start getting a sense of closure, after a painful period in which their coach Shakes Mashaba broke down as he struggled to contain the emotions as he tried to deal with his captain’s death, when they hosted Sudan at the Moses Mabhida Stadium this weekend.
The South African senior national football team could qualify for their first Nations Cup finals, without getting the ticket to play at the tournament by virtue of hosts, in six years if they beat Sudan in their penultimate qualifier in Durban.
The game was moved to the coastal city in honour of Meyiwa, who emerged from KwaZulu Natal to lead his country’s resurgence in international football with aplomb, and to give his foreign-based national teammates, who were unable to come home for his funeral, to pay their last respects at his grave at the Heroes’ Acre in Chesterville without disrupting the team’s camp.
Fans who had bought tickets for the game at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit are being given refunds or, alternatively, they could use the same tickets for the game at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“We felt as an association it was proper and fitting that this match be played in Durban to honour our fallen hero since he hailed from this part of the world,” South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan said.
“The team will visit the Meyiwa family and the graveyard. This will give the team the opportunity for closure.
“We believe it will be a perfect send-off for Meyiwa after the heroics of the player helped the national team find itself in such a good position.”
Meyiwa’s heroics for Bafana Bafana has seen him being named, posthumously, for the 2014 CAF African Player of the Year, for those footballers based on the continent and, after the way his death touched the entire football world, drawing condolence messages from FIFA president Sepp Blatter, it’s certain that his huge shadow will loom large over the awards ceremony in Lagos.
The late Bafana Bafana ‘keeper kept clean sheets in tough assignments in Khartoum and Brazzaville and was also unbeaten, in two home ties against African champions Nigeria and Congo Brazzaville, as South Africa announced their return from the wilderness with a spirited campaign for a place at the 2015 Nations Cup finals.
Meyiwa had shown his qualities, to deal with tough challenges thrown by football on the continent where a number of South African teams have come short in the past, by playing a leading role as Orlando Pirates qualified for the final of the 2014 CAF Champions League last year.
Along the way, the Buccaneers eliminated four-time African champions, TP Mazembe, with Meyiwa saving two penalties, controversially awarded to the Congolese side in their backyard, which enhanced his reputation as a tough competitor and might have convinced new national coach, Mashaba, to bank on him to captain Bafana Bafana.
He will battle for the CAF African Player of the Year (Based in Africa) against his fellow South Africans, Bongani Ndulula, who has impressed after being given another lifeline by Mashaba, leading the line for Bafana Bafana, and Kaizer Chief’ forward, Bernard Parker, who is a surprise name among those fighting for this big award. Parker scored just 10 goals, to win the South African Golden Boot in the 2013/2014 season, and has not made any impression, in the Bafana Bafana colours in a year in which he has battled injury, while he was overshadowed, in the team’s Champions League campaign, by Zimbabwe’s Knowledge Musona.
Orlando Pirates have already retired Meyiwa’s jersey although SAFA can’t do the same as FIFA are against the retirement of jerseys by the national teams.
Another South African player, Thulani Serero, who has impressed in the UEFA Champions League, has been named on the shortlist of the 2014 CAF Player of the Year award which has been dominated by Manchester City powerhouse, Yaya Toure, in the past three years.