Hugo Broos has overcome three-pronged adversity to take Bafana forward

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has got South Africa punching above their weight at the Africa Cup of Nations. Picture: Franck Fife / AFP

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has got South Africa punching above their weight at the Africa Cup of Nations. Picture: Franck Fife / AFP

Published Feb 8, 2024


One thing is clear on the South African football landscape: national team coach Hugo Broos must stay, even though Bafana Bafana failed to beat Nigeria in their Africa Cup of Nations semi-final.

The Belgian-born mentor has remained unbowed in the face of three-pronged adversity – PSL sabotage, fickle South African fans and a financially hamstrung national federation (Safa), who are often incompatible bedfellows.

Bafana Bafana coach Broos has had a mighty frustrating time dealing with the Premier Soccer League, whose fixture schedule ensures that the national team players – specifically the Mamelodi Sundowns contingent – are run into the ground by the time they arrive at the national team training camps.

This is because the PSL will halt fixtures as close to the international window as possible. Often Sundowns are last to play before the PSL shuts down, something which Broos has gone to great lengths to express his dissatisfaction about.

Broos was highly amused when the PSL said in a statement on the eve of Bafana’s departure for Ivory Coast that it supported the national team.

Before they travelled to west Africa, three players – Ronwen Williams, Mothobi Mvala and Themba Zwane – arrived injured, essentially because of their heavy workload.

As a result, Bafana Bafana’s staff decided to withdraw the players from training and the warm-up match.

These players had their first training hit-out at the team’s base in Ivory Coast.

This factor may have contributed to South Africa’s 2-0 defeat in the opening pool stage fixture.

This reverse against Mali brought out the hordes of naysayers who have been around ever since Broos was appointed in May 2021.

The flow of vile hate mail crescendoed after Bafana Bafana narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

To date, there has not been one instance where Broos was given adequate time to prepare a squad.

And then there are his bosses, the South African Football Association, who he has taken to task on occasions, as well as the PSL, in the public domain.

Broos had to settle for a warm-up match against lowly Lesotho because Safa were unable to do better. By the time the governing body woke up, they couldn’t find stronger opposition than Lesotho.

Broos would have liked to stage a pre-Afcon training camp in Cameroon, where conditions were similar to Ivory Coast. It would have been hugely advantageous for the players. However, Safa did not have the funds for such a camp.

These setbacks did not deter Broos, who has had extensive experience of working with African teams, one of which, Cameroon, he guided to the Afcon title in 2017.

Broos has been one of the standout coaches at the current Africa Cup of Nations. He guided Bafana to back-to-back wins over Morocco, Africa’s highest-ranked team (one qualifier and a round of 16 clash).

It was an astounding achievement since Morocco, the World Cup semi-finalists, have drawn almost exclusively on overseas-based players.

Broos has guided his unheralded contingent, which included a sprinkling of overseas-based players, to the Afcon semi-finals. This will be Bafana Bafana’s first last-four encounter at the tournament in 23 years.

Bafana have World Cup qualifiers coming up in June, when they will play against Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Regardless of what happened in last night’s semi-final against the Super Eagles, Broos has shown that he is the man to take South African football into the future. His current contract expires after the 2026 Fifa World Cup.