‘SA not judged on Chiefs, Downs, Bucs’

Hunt has emphasised the importance of the senior men’s national team qualifying for major tournaments as it promotes the image of the country’s standard of football.

Bafana have recently returned from a disappointing goalless draw away to Seychelles as their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification hopes took a knock, with just two fixtures remaining.

Stuart Baxter’s charges surrendered their standing atop Group E and will face a stern test against Nigeria and Libya, whom they failed to beat at home last month, in their bid for a place in Cameroon next year.

As one of the most successful and respected local coaches, Hunt, although initially reluctant to share his thoughts on the national team, feels qualification to AFCON and the FIFA World Cup is the only thing that can raise awareness of our players’ footballing abilities.

“I don’t really want to go there, it’s not my domain. We all watch it [the national team]. Maybe, like Jomo [Sono] always says, he always goes to funerals when Bafana plays,” Hunt joked.

“Maybe I can say that and just get out of it, but we all watch.

"We want them to do well. I think it’s important for us as a country that [we do well] in these big tournaments – the Nations Cup, the World Cup – because it will increase the awareness for our country.

“If you look at the awareness, people say, ‘Where are you from? South Africa? Agh.’ And South Africa gets judged on your national team, not on Chiefs, Sundowns or Pirates.

“You get judged on your national team as a football nation, and people say, ‘Agh, South Africa …’

"We had a good thing in the 1990s – we were AFCON winners, we qualified for World Cups and we had a bit of [a reputation]. We need to get back to that.”

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With Bafana now requiring at least two points from their remaining qualifiers, ‘Hunty’ has no doubt that the team will make it through and urges the country to rally behind Baxter and the boys.

“We have to qualify, and we will do this now because top two [in the group qualify] – we should make it. We’ll qualify, and then we can build from there,” he added.

“But, it’s so important for us to all get behind Stuart and the team. I know they’re going to take a hammering [after the Seychelles draw], but it was difficult conditions – it looked difficult.

“I mean, the guy [Lebo Mothiba] missed an open goal, gee whiz. So, we wish them well – I wish them well, and we’re here to support the situation.

“I think there’s a good, young squad, and there’s a freshness and a side that can grow. A lot of younger players have come in, and I think it’s important that we get behind it and support it as best we can.

"Because we need, for us coaches and clubs, for our national team to be at AFCON. I mean, Madagascar qualified. We need our team to be there. I’m not [doubting], they will be there next year, I’m sure.”

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