South African News

How EFF saved Bafana from embarrassment on AFCON return

EFF leader Julius Malema says the party’s supporters turned out in numbers for Bafana Bafana’s return because they knew the team’s 4am arrival from the Africa Cup of Nations might cause an embarrassingly poor turnout.

A healthy dose of political opportunism might well have been a further motivation. However, Malema correctly pointed out Nations Cup bronze medallists Bafana’s return from being the first South African men’s team to reach the semifinals in 24 years in Ivory Coast might have fallen flat without the EFF’s intervention.

The red shirts of the supporters of the political party made up perhaps more than 80% of the few thousand fans who were at OR Tambo International Airport from before 4am to await Bafana’s arrival.

The national team’s flight from Abidjan to Johannesburg was delayed by 50 minutes and they entered the airport arrival hall at a far more accessible time of just after 6am. Even then, while public excitement about their achievement in Ivory Coast has been high, the enthusiasm to travel to the airport and greet the team had been dampened by news of their arrival time.

“[By] not showing up, we are avoiding being heard. People stay away but when you perform well people are going to come out in their numbers,” Malema said of the EFF’s decision to mobilise supporters to greet Bafana.

“It’s very rare you can have supporters here at 3am. That’s a sign of love, commitment and appreciation because you have done something good.

“Ordinarily they were supposed to come in and then go home, without anyone being here. It would be justifiable because it was in the early hours.

“But when people have done well for the country, have demonstrated their love for you, and you return that love with love, they [supporters] will sleep at the airport and show the world they care.

Julius Malema explains why the EFF turned out in numbers to greet Bafana Bafana on their return at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday February 14 2024 from winning a bronze medal at the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast. He also takes a dig at lack of attendance from white people.

“What made me come was their [Bafana’s] performance. You must lose after putting up a fight.

“There was a period where Bafana were like real cows. They could miss [kicking] a stationary ball.

“But this time we saw the highest form of internationally competitive football. So when people have lost but after putting up such a big fight you have to go to them and say, ‘Well done’ to encourage them, and they will perform much better in the future.”

Malema scolded white people, whose absence at the airport he said was notable given how black South Africans support the Springboks when the national rugby side enjoy a tournament triumph, such as last year’s World Cup victory that sparked huge nationwide celebrations.

“We always took a conscious decision that no matter the performance they [Bafana] are us and to denounce them would be to denounce ourselves.

“I would not speak for others because we were told sports would unite us. So we came, and we never said anyone [else] must not come. If they decided to stay away they may have their own reasons.

“We took a conscious decision because we knew Bafana were arriving at 4am and the place would be empty. And we were right, because if we had not shown up with the numbers they were not going to be well received.

“But when it is a white sport we are all there, including those who have no idea about the sport.

“But if the country is happy [about a rugby victory] you want to be happy with it, because you are patriotic. We can’t say the same. It’s so unfortunate.

“Nevertheless, we must continue to love ourselves. We don’t love ourselves depending on the love of others towards us. We love ourselves whether they are here or not.

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