- Bafana legend Lucas Radebe says the national men’s team must put Zimbabwe’s governance troubles at the back of their minds.
- FIFA banned Zimbabwe from international football after finding government interference in the running of their game.
- Zimbabwe was allowed to partake in the 2023 Afcon qualification draw, where they were pooled with SA, Morocco and Liberia.
Bafana Bafana and Leeds United legend Lucas Radebe said the men’s national team must pay no mind to their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers adversaries Zimbabwe’s FIFA suspension from world football.
In February, the world football governing body FIFA imposed sanctions upon SA’s neighbours, along with Kenya, because of government interference in the running of those countries’ football.
“They know what needs to be done for the suspension to be lifted and for them to be re-admitted,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said at the time of Zimbabwe’s ban.
However, Zimbabwe was admitted into the Afcon 2023 qualification draw and will have until the start of the qualifiers to clear the matter, otherwise Group K will be contested by the other three members: South Africa, Morocco and Liberia.
Radebe says, though, that this should not play a part in Bafana’s preparation for the qualifiers beginning on 30 May.
“No, Bafana should not take any of that into account,” Radebe said.
“We should prepare ourselves as though we are playing three teams in our group, Zimbabwe, Liberia and Morocco.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be. Forget about what happens [with the FIFA ban].
“We’ll see. We have to wait until later to find out whether Zimbabwe is in or out.
“We just need to prepare the best way we can for this Afcon.”
Bafana assistant coach Helman Mkhalele echoed Radebe’s thoughts about Zimbabwe’s administrative troubles not playing a factor in SA’s preparation for the qualifiers.
“Not at all,” he said, “We are just focusing on the opponents and try to make sure that we study all the teams, including Zimbabwe.
“We don’t want to focus on their current situation because we don’t know whether they’ll be reinstated or kept out of the qualifying group.
“We have to ensure that whenever the qualifiers start we are ready to get results and good performances.”
Radebe said Bafana’s group was “good”, intimating that the men’s national team should have a good chance of making the 24-team tournament in Ivory Coast next year.
South Africa recently faced Zimbabwe during the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, which SA won 1-0 at home and drew 0-0 away, a match they also should have won but for missed goal-scoring chances.
“To be honest, I think it’s a good group. It could have swayed the other way,” said “Rhoo”.
“We could have drawn Ghana or Senegal in our group. We’ve beaten Morocco before and, no disrespect to Zimbabwe and Liberia, they can be tricky.
“It will be good for us to start strongly and showcase what our intention is for this Afcon by winning the group.”