South Africa return to Mbombela Stadium after Afcon qualification dance
Posted: 14 June 2012 Time: 11:31 am
Bafana Bafana will go into their friendly international with Gabon on Friday with an unbeaten record at Mbombela Stadium … but also plenty of bad memories.
The magnificent 2010 World Cup venue is one of the most iconic stadiums on the continent, perhaps even in world football, with its giraffe struts and zebra seats.
It is a fine viewing venue too, much in the style of old English football stadiums with the fans close to the action in stands that seem to hang over the pitch.
South Africa's first game there was a pre-World Cup warm-up against Thailand in May 2010 that resulted in a thumping 4-0 win, at the time the joint biggest win since readmission. It would be eclipsed a fortnight later with a 5-0 success over Guatemala.
Friday's skipper Siphiwe Tshabalala got the first goal in that game, before Katlego Mphela netted a brace and Bernard Parker got the fourth with a beauty into the top corner.
Their next match was in the opening game of their campaign to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, when Mphela and Parker netted again in a 2-0 win over Niger in September 2010.
The Nigeriens were fortunate to escape with such a modest scoreline on the night as Bafana wasted numerous opportunities to possibly match or even better that Guatemala result.
Their last visit there is one that will forever be etched on the minds of South African fans, a now infamous 0-0 draw with Sierra Leone in October 2011 that then coach Pitso Mosimane and the players believed would take them to the 2012 Nations Cup. They were wrong.
Scenes of dancing players would later be beamed across the world in what is surely South African football's greatest humiliation. For the likes of Tshabalala and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, returning there this week will have been painful, but they should at least use that pain to ensure they are never again placed in such a situation.