Abafana baseMzansi – Part 3

Memba Ben By Memba Ben, 30th Jul 2018 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Sports>Football (Soccer)

A continuation of a series focusing on the South African national football team with this installment looking back at Bafana's legendary win in the 1996 AFCON.

The boys come out to play.

In 195, the Springboks won South Africa its first international trophy when they defeated the All – Black in the Rugby World Cup final and with original hosts Kenya unable to host the 1996 AFCON, South Africa stepped in. The nation and team were buoyant to participate in its first international tournament since readmission and like the Springboks, hoped to make the home field advantage count.

Going into the tournament, the team had legendary South African manager Clive Barker at the helm after the dismissals of Screamer Tshabalala, caretaker coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba (who would later become the full time coach) and Peruvian national Augusto Palacios (who went on to become the head of youth development at Orlando Pirates. Now Clive Barker is a bit of a journeyman with an unremarkable career having coached twenty – three different sides over a forty – five year span wining only two league championships and two cups but the sheer fact that he is the only national team manager to have won a significant international trophy has earned him a cult status amongst South Africans.

The team itself was largely unchanged from the side that failed to qualify for USA ’94 (which was more on their inexperience than their abilities) with headliners such as Andre Arendse, Neil Tovey, Mark Fish, John “Shoes” Moshoeu, Doctor “16v” Khumalo, and Lucas Radebe.

The full twenty-two man line-up consisted of:

Andre Arendse
Roger De Sa
John Tlale

Sizwe Motaung
Mark Fish
Neil Tovey
Lucas Radebe
Edward Motale
Andrew Tucker
David Nyathi

Doctor Khumalo
Eric Tinkler
Linda Buthelezi
Shoes Moshoeu
Helman Mkhalele
John Moeti
Zane Moosa

Shaun Bartlett
Phil Masinga
Mark Williams
Augustine Makalakalane
Daniel Mudau

With the line- up being something to the effect of:

Motaung Fish Tovey Radebe
Moshoeu Tinkler
Bartlett Masinga

With an abundance of midfield and defensive talent, The Dog (Clive Barker's nickname) lined Bafana Bafana up in a 4-4-2 which provided defensive strength and surety with the inclusions of Andre Arendse ( a solid but unspectacular goalkeeper who was great in the air) and the Big 3 in Tovey, Fish and Radebe (who’s attributes combined well to create a near impenetrable defense with Tovey marshaling, Fish man marking and Radebe tucking in and sweeping any danger) and the tough tackling Linda “Mercedes Benz” Buthelezi as the holding DM ( a no nonsense defensive mid who provided the midfield bite and presence) ,work rate in the form of Eric Tinkler ( an industrious midfielder who was more of an all-rounder than a specialist), width in the form of the late Sizwe Motaung (a fine right wingback who regularly ventured forward to provide a crossing threat, mirroring the play style of legendary Brazilian wing backs Djalma Santos and Cafu), spontaneity in the form of 16v (who whilst not being a traditional winger, had excellent dribbling ability and was given license to roam around the half-spaces between the midfield pair and the striking duo) along with Shoes’ extensive passing range to complement the strengths of the usual striking trio of Big Phil Masinga ( a tall, burly forward who had an eye for long ranged efforts), Mark Williams (a nimble quick thinking forward who hung on the shoulder of the last defender) and Shaun Bartlett (a fantastic striker who depending on his partner, could play both as a target man or as a poacher ).

With defending champions Nigeria having boycotted the competition and their proposed replacements Guinea declining to take their place, Bafana Bafana were looked upon as a team who could cause problems but not expected to go far. This was especially true considering that they were drawn in Group A alongside contenders Cameroon and favorites Egypt, not to mention other favored nations such as Algeria, Ghana and Tunisia but despite the odds, the nation kept hope and were optimistic about their chances.

However, at no point prior to the start of tournament did anyone expect them to win it.
In the group stages, South Africa shocked many by finishing top of Group A with a possible six from nine points (with their only loss of the entire tournament coming against Egypt), setting up a quarter – final clash with Group B runners-up Algeria. Now up until the tie against Algeria, South Africans were already satisfied in the country’s performance seeing as they only just came back from a thirty year isolation just a mere four years earlier but in an interview with FourFourTwo, striker Shaun Bartlett believes that the win over Algeria was the point where the team and nation began to believe that they could win it.

“From the first game nobody gave us a chance, but that quarter-final showed the never-say-die attitude of that group of players and it lined us up perfectly for the semi-final against Ghana. If you want to win big tournaments you have to beat big teams. We wanted to show that we were back on the international stage”.

Coming from a goal down, the team beat Algeria 2-1 to set up a semi-final clash against the Black Stars of Ghana.

Everyone expected the Ghana game to be tougher. While Algeria were historically known as a side that were tough but beatable, Ghana had/have always been one of the top sides in Africa (up until the semi-final, they were the only unbeaten side in the tournament). The anxiousness over the Ghana game was increased by the fact that for the first time in the tournament, Bafana Bafana would be facing a team which (like them) was firing all cylinders with the lynch pin being Ghanaian and African legend Abedi Pele.

Abedi Pele was tipped as the next big thing in African football and was expected to match the exploits of Liberian hero George Weah by becoming only the second African to win the World Player of The Year award with the ’96 AFCON finals being looked at as a demonstration to the vote casters of his abilities but inspired by the brilliance of Shoes Moshoeu, Bafana Bafana surprised everyone and defeated the Black Stars 3-0 to reach the final and face Tunisia.

The final is remembered more for Mark Williams playing the ultimate super sub than the actual match and with his brace, Bafana Bafana won their first (and most important) international honor to date which after the match was followed by the now iconic photo of Neil Tovey lifting the AFCON trophy to an ecstatic 80 000 capacity FNB Stadium alongside the late Minister of Sport, Steve Tshwete, former president F.W de Klerk, then president Nelson Mandela and CAF president Issa Hayatou and although the Super Eagles (like the All – Blacks) will complain about being screwed out of the trophy, the victories in both sporting codes unified the nation with Bafana’s success catapulting them to an all-time high of 16th on the FIFA World Rankings.

The boys had just conquered Africa and with France ’98 on the horizon, who was to say they wouldn’t upset the odds again?

A link to FourFourTwo's feature on the 1996 AFCON victory:

If you happened to miss the previous installments of the series:


Football Soccer, History, Soccer, South Africa

Meet the author

author avatar Memba Ben
A fan's view on the business of football.

For more content, head to:


Share this page

moderator Peter B. Giblett moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


Add a comment
Can't login?