Bafana Bafana had a special visitor in President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday, 15 January 2013 at Orlando Stadium ahead of the start of the 29th edition of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations South Africa 2013 which starts on Saturday, 19 January.
Bafana Bafana will face Cape Verde in the opening match of the tournament before taking on Angola and Morocco in Group A on Saturday at the National Stadium.
Zuma took time off his busy schedule to give a word of encouragement to the national team as they go into battle with some of the best on the continent.
Also in attendance was Minister of Sport and Recreation South Africa, the Honorable Fikile Mbalula, his deputy Gert Oosthuizen, MEC for Sport in Gauteng Lebogang Maile, SAFA President Kirsten Nematandani and SAFA Acting CEO Dennis Mumble.
The State President had a private talk with the players before going to address the gathered media contingent.
“There are too many critics in this country, and I was telling the team that others who are critics have never touched the ball and they don’t know how it feels on the pitch. I was telling them that we are satisfied that the team is ready; we have seen it in the recent matches they have played.
“We are satisfied that the team is well prepared for the tournament and we came to say to them they must relax and not be tense and not listen to the critics. I am confident this time than any other time that we will show people what we are made of as South Africans.
“I also wanted to tell the team that the entire country is behind them, even those that are critical; it is because of the love they have for the team. I said I want to touch the cup because if it is won by another country I won’t touch it. Looking at them I can tell they are ready and confident,” said the State President.
President Zuma also had a word for the doubting Thomases about the country’s readiness.
“Critics will always be there, some of them are paid to be critics and they are doing their job. I think we have done our best. Bear in mind that this tournament was supposed to be in Libya, so this tournament was not given the normal time for preparations and people who are making criticism forget that.
“We had to start very late as a result of that. I am happy and I think we are ready and I think the country is ready. Fortunately, we have the facilities. We might not have done everything precisely because of how we got to host this edition but we are more than ready,” said President Zuma.
Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said for the state President to visit the team, it was a huge morale booster.
“It is a privilege when the number one citizen of the country comes to meet the players and give support. It is always important for the players and the whole team that he made time in his busy schedule to be with us today. We really feel honoured,” said Igesund in response.
The President showed off his dribbling skills in front of television cameras and photographers, before captain Bongani Khumalo handed him his two Bafana Bafana jerseys.