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INTERVIEW – TK: ‘Super Eagles Good Enough For AFCON 2019 Semis; Bafana Bafana Are Back!’

INTERVIEW – TK: ‘Super Eagles Good Enough For AFCON 2019 Semis; Bafana Bafana Are Back!’

SuperSport presenter and pundit, Thomas Kwenaite popularly known as ‘TK’ was in Nigeria recently and he visited Complete Sports’ offices in Lagos where he spoke in an interview with Oluyemi Ogunseyin on the issues affecting the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Bafana Bafana of South Africa.

The bold, fearless and multiple award-winning journalist also tipped the Super Eagles to, at least, reach the semi-finals of the 2019 African Cup of Nations AFCON in Egypt…

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Complete Sports: Do you think South Africa will do better than Nigeria at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt?

TK: I wouldn’t say that South Africa will do better than Nigeria simply because the Bafana Bafana are still in a rebuilding stage. You know we won the AFCON in 1996 and got silver in 1998.

In 2000, we got bronze while in 2002, we were knocked out in the quarter-finals. And from there, we have suffered a downhill slide and even in some instances, we failed to qualify for the AFCON.

But we have been in a rebuilding process and for the first time in a long while, we have started seeing a whole lot of our players going abroad to play professional football.

What most people do not realize is that most or even all of the players in the team that won the AFCON trophy for South Africa back in the year 1996 were playing abroad.

The likes of Andre Arendse, the late Sizwe Motaung, David Nyathi, Lucas Radebe, Linda Buthelezi, Eric Tinkler, John Moshoeu, Doctor Khumalo, Shaun Bartlett, Philemon Masinga and Mark Williams were all playing in Europe.

You can see that the entire team of 1996 was playing in Europe, but when we went down, we had very few players outside our country and only Steven Pienaar was abroad, but now, we have many players in Europe once again.

Current crop of players such as Thulani Serero, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Bongani Zungu, Percy Tau, Lars Veldwijk, Lebo Mothiba and Keagan Dolly are now plying their trades in Europe.

We also have about 40 players in the lower leagues in countries like Belgium and France which has helped our football develop and our youth teams such as the Under-17 and Under-20 are now qualifying for the World Cup.

With all of these, I will confidently say that South Africa will do much better at the 2019 AFCON in Egypt than they have done in the past.

TK (l) with the GMD of CCL, Alhaji Mumini Alao

What do you think are Nigeria’s chances of winning the AFCON? Do you believe the Super Eagles can triumph in Egypt?

Due to the fact that Nigeria is a superpower in African football, a lot of Nigerian supporters are expecting so much from the team, but what they don’t realize is that manager, Gernot Rohr is still rebuilding.

When the Super Eagles lost to Bafana Bafana at home during the AFCON qualifiers, it was a kind of wake-up call to Nigeria who had been rebuilding and it made them leave out the younger players and go back to the likes of Victor Moses and Odion Ighalo.

Nigeria realized that it was not yet time for them to implement change, but I would expect the Super Eagles to at least get as far as the semi-finals of the 2019 AFCON.

But to win it, I think that will be a bonus for Nigeria. However, Nigerians should give Rohr a chance to rebuild this team just like they gave former coach, Clemens Westerhof a chance to work.

They gave the Dutchman a chance to rebuild the Eagles and he came out with the golden generation that won the 1994 AFCON and even went on to win the Atlanta 96 Olympic gold medal.

Nigeria is a superpower in African football and they are expected to always win every competition that they participate in, but they should give this particular team a chance.

What has been the major problem of South African football and what do you think are the solutions?

We won the AFCON in 1996 and we allowed that achievement to get into our heads. It led us to having the belief that we had arrived at the big stage in world football.

And then, we also did a lot of things wrongly. For instance, in the year 2000 when we went to the Olympics with a team that had the likes of Benni McCarthy, Matthew Booth and Jabu Pule, we failed to accommodate them into the senior team.

We forgot the proper structure of doing things, we were just so obsessed with the team that won the AFCON in 1996 just like Cameroon did after the 1990 World cup and allowed the team to age without adequately replacing the old players.

We did not want to refresh that 1996 team because they had won the AFCON for us and we paid dearly for that. But we are now on the right path as our Under-23 team qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympics and that was the very first time.

I would say now, we are doing things right and that is the solution, it is also good to start afresh from the grassroots level and I would like to say that we now have proper structures in place.

And I would say that there is light after the tunnel. If South Africa could come down to Nigeria and beat the Super Eagles, there is hope and thereafter qualifying for the AFCON which used to be difficult for us a few years back.

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