Veteran Reneilwe “Yeye” Letsholonyane says failure to qualify for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt is unthinkable for Bafana Bafana and coach Stuart Baxter’s charges must ensure that this doesn’t become a reality in Tunisia on Sunday.
Letsholonyane‚ who played 52 matches for the national team and scored two goals‚ said it would be a “huge disappointment” if South Africa does not line up against the continent’s best in June.
“It would be a huge disappointment for the whole country if we do not qualify for this tournament‚” he said.
“We are supposed to have qualified by now but we didn’t get points where we were supposed to have gotten them somewhere during the qualification programme.
“Having said that‚ our fate is still in our hands compared to previous years where we relied on other teams to do us favours.”
Bafana Bafana must avoid defeat against Libya in neutral Sfax‚ Tunisia on Sunday if they are to qualify for the African Cup of Nations finals
Bafana must either beat or draw with Libya in the massive final qualifier if they are to secure a ticket to the continental showpiece in June.
Baxter’s charges are in second place in Group E with nine points‚ behind leaders Nigeria‚ who have already qualified.
Libya‚ on the other hand‚ must win to take second place in the group behind Nigeria and deny SA qualification.
Letshlonyane said if the nation’s worst fears are realised on Sunday‚ Bafana will have themselves to blame after starting the campaign with an impressive away win against Nigeria.
“We will only have ourselves to blame and it will be a step backwards after the good job that was done over the past year or so‚” he said.
“I hope and pray that we do qualify for Afcon for the sake of our football because it is a huge thing that Bafana Bafana qualify for a big tournament like this and compete with the other big countries on the continent.
“We have to work on being the best on the continent again and you can only be the best by competing and beating the best. This is an opportunity for our national team.”
As an experienced campaigner who has travelled extensively on the continent with club and country‚ Letsholonyane said the logistics are an important part of the preparations.
“The most important thing in my opinion is making sure that travel arrangement are proper because it is far and challenging to get to Tunisia‚” he said.
“But I don’t think there is so much that we can stress about.
“The main thing when you go to those countries is to get the travelling arrangements spot on‚ if you overcome that one it will be easier.”
The match will be played in neutral Tunisia because of the security uncertainty in Libya.
“When it comes to the stuff on the field‚ I believe that footballers enjoy playing in full stadiums where there is pressure‚ he said.
“I think the coach has picked a good and balanced squad that can represent the country well with a combination of youth and experience.
“I believe that the individuals can do well and fortunately when you check in terms of away games we have done fairly well most of the times.
“I hope that carries on and the boys get the job done.”