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Fish: Long way to go for Bafana Bafana to regain 1996 to 2000 level

7:38 AM EST 1/9/22
Mark Fish against Tunisia
The former Afcon-winning defender does not see South Africa returning to their glory days anytime soon

Former Bafana Bafana defender Mark Fish has expressed “disappointment” at the national team’s failure to qualify for major tournaments and is not convinced by the capabilities of the current squad.

South Africa are not at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon and will also not grace the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.

This has concerned Fish who feels the current Bafana crop is still far from returning to the nation's glory days.

Bafana’s golden years saw them winning the 1996 Afcon title and qualifying for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

“There is a disappointment after our failure in the Afcon and World Cup qualifiers,” Fish told GOAL.

“There is a long way to go to regain our level between 1996 and 2000. But I'm positive. The coaches and the players just need to work for a common goal. There are five or six young people who are arriving and who have shown good things in the World Cup qualifiers, even if that was not enough.”

Now under the tutelage of Hugo Broos, South Africa failed to qualify for the play-off round in the bid for Qatar 2022, on the last day of the group campaign.

They also collapsed on the closing day of the group phase in their quest to book a ticket for the Afcon finals, but then under Molefi Ntseki.

Despite Bafana missing in Cameroon, Fish has keen interest in the tournament and mentions title holders Algeria, Morocco and Senegal as favourites.

“Generally, if you ask me who will win, the favourites are always the same. But other teams could surprise too,” said Fish.

“Well, there are the North African teams which are often well organised, and Algeria as the defending champions are a candidate to win the final. But there is also Morocco, they won the Chan not so long ago. Senegal have also a great team. One thing for sure is that the winner will have to battle because the tournament will be of a high level.”

During his playing days, Fish featured in two Afcon finals, helping Bafana to glory in 1996 and finishing as runners-up two years later, before settling for bronze in 2000.

“Of course for any African, this is one of the most important experiences in a career. And playing for your country is the best thing,” Fish said.

“Of course, at a club, you can play in the Uefa Champions League and the Europa League, but nothing replaces tournaments with your national team because you represent a whole nation.

“For me, it was an honour and I'm sure it was for all of my teammates in the national team. When you get into this kind of tournament, you give 100 percent. For any African, this is the pinnacle of a career, even if there is also the World Cup. And being able to win this tournament is even more rewarding for any footballer.”