Cape Town – He has been described as a man of exceptional dignity, courage, determination, freedom, justice, equality, humanity, forgiveness and unity.
And when SAFA hit on the commendable idea in the early 1990s of appropriately honouring Nelson Mandela with an annual fixture that was befitting of Madiba’s stature, such iconic World Cup soccer nations of the calibre of five-times record holders Brazil, twice winners Argentina and France and dual finalists the Netherlands fitted the bill to a tee as suitable opponents for Bafana Bafana during the opening decade of the historic event.
That was then and now is now, with SAFA systematically making little effort to organise what is known as the Nelson Mandela Challenge as anything more than another friendly international fixture, with the visiting teams mainly what can be described as of a mundane category in the circumstances.
And this is not mentioned to disparage teams like Mali, who play Bafana in a hastily arranged 2019 version of the Nelson Mandela Challenge at what will ironically be the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth next weekend.
Mali are ranked 57th in the world and quite capable of providing 71st South Africa with a gruelling test in preparation for coming World Cup and African Nations Cup qualifying fixtures, if not beating them or holding out for a draw.
And as such Mali might appear quite okay once the search for Bafana’s opponents not been made a bit earlier.
But remember this is no ordinary warm-up match. It is the Nelson Mandela Challenge and as such SAFA should have been contracting more august opponents for what should undoubtedly be an august occasion.
If this was not possible because of SAFA demonstrating a characteristic blase attitude in finding special Bafana opponents for the special occasion, it should not have been anointed as the Mandela Challenge and the memory of the great man designated for another date.
After all, that much should have been done for someone of exceptional dignity, courage, determination, freedom, justice, equality, humanity, forgiveness and unity.
Isn’t that what the Nelson Mandela Challenge is meant to be about?