In celebration of the upcoming 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, SoccerClub selects our top 10 Bafana Bafana players in South Africa’s history. By Mark Gleeson
In 2012 Bafana Bafana celebrated two decades since their return to international football. There have been highs and lows in that time, with over 300 players wearing the national team jersey and many becoming heroes. Here is a subjective list of Bafana’s 10 best-ever players …
A consistent goal-scorer for the country who played across the world in the US, Switzerland and in the English Premier League. Ironically, he started his career as a midfielder but at the 1996 Nations Cup finals rose to be lead striker, keeping Mark Williams out of the side for the final.
A record 31 goals in 79 games makes him tops statistically but it is an accolade that is also deserved on the back of his 1998 Nations Cup performance. He is the only South African international to come close to the African Footballer of the Year award and to win the Uefa Champions League. He was a divisive character among the fans but his quality was unsurpassed.
A magical player who has fallen short of expectation but did almost carry the national side single-handedly for several years until a flopped performance at the 2009 Confederation Cup, which has taken him years to overcome. His long-range goal against Cameroon in Rustenburg in 2008 was one of the best ever for the country.
A total of 107 caps makes ‘Mbazo’ the only South African to go into Fifa’s Century Club. He was always willing to serve his country’s cause and scored a highly significant goal away in Lusaka in a vital Nations Cup qualifier. But he also made many silly mistakes, notably against Mexico in the 2010 World Cup.
The long-standing captain was a hero in ’96 when he brushed aside the concerns of his English club Leeds to play in the Nations Cup finals, despite having been out of action for a year with injury. Later on, he tended to pick and choose his games but because of his exploits overseas is now regarded as a legend.
Williams makes our top 10 on the back of the two goals he scored in the 1996 Nations Cup decider, coming on as a substitute to secure the trophy. His exploit earned him the nickname ‘National Builder’ for engineering an early sporting success for a fledgling rainbow nation.
First captain of South Africa, who then lost the job only to get it back in time to lift the Nations Cup. He was also the first player to reach 50 Bafana caps.
Very tricky and exciting, Zuma played 67 times for the national team and went to two World Cups for South Africa. Perhaps he was unlucky in that he was never surrounded by team-mates of the same quality.
Never one to fully give of himself to the team cause, Khumalo nevertheless was a huge asset in Bafana’s glory days and scored key goals, notably against Brazil and Argentina. In an out-of-character moment, he made a tackle in midfield, grabbing possession to set up the first goal for Mark Williams on the way to Afcon glory in 1996.
The clever midfield mastermind of the 1996 Nations Cup squad was arguably the best player of the tournament, but did not get the required recognition. He was a latecomer to the national side but stayed past his 38th birthday.