The lowest-ranked of all 48 teams participating in the Afcon qualifiers at 189th in the world and fourth-last in Africa, Seychelles head to South Africa with a dismal record: they haven’t won a match in their last 17 encounters which include Nations Cup qualifiers, Cosafa Cup, Chan and international friendly matches.
Taking into account only Nations Cup qualifiers, they have lost all of their last five matches, conceding 14 goals and scoring just three, with their last victory being a 2-0 2017 Afcon qualifying victory over Lesotho in March 2016. In that qualifying campaign, The Pirates ended third in their group with four points from their six games, while that win over Lesotho is their sole victory across all competitions in their last 29 games.
In the current campaign, Seychelles have already conceded eight goals in two qualifiers, scoring just once, as they were downed 5-1 by Libya and 3-0 by Nigeria, leaving them bottom of Group E.
It must be noted, however, that just making it into the qualifying group is some feat for the island nation, who have never qualified for a Nations Cup tournament proper.
They’ve also never played at a World Cup, and have exited at the group stages of the last seven Cosafa Cup competitions in which they have participated.
The senior national team players all have day jobs, often only making afternoon training as a result, with many having to take leave from work to travel for the Afcon qualifiers.
In a recent interview with KweseESPN, Seychelles coach Gavin Jeanne revealed the different occupations held by some of his squad members.
"We have all sorts of jobs among the players – it will be difficult for me to tell you all of them," Jeanne said. “I know we have drivers, masons, a stevedore [dock worker], a tourist guide, people who do casual labour. Everything."
Topping that, the players are not even paid to play for their country.
"Nothing – they do not get paid anything,” the coach continued. “We just get a small training allowance. Not much. We play for our national team for free."
Jeanne, the previous manager of the national Under-17 team, has been in charge since March, overseeing three draws and two losses in his five matches at the helm.
As much as no team can be underestimated, Bafana Bafana will have a lot of explaining to do should they not achieve victory in their back-to-back qualifiers against the minnows this Saturday and Tuesday, where six points could all but secure their passage to next year’s Afcon in Cameroon.
The top two teams from each of the 12 qualifying groups will progress to the finals, taking place across six venues in Cameroon from 15 June to 13 July.