Not many presidents have stood out and backed their national teams to represent them well at the much anticipated Africa Cup of Nations that starts on Saturday.
Hosts South Africa were backed by president Jacob Zuma ahead of their opener with Cape Verde at the National Stadium in Johannesburg.
“There are too many critics. I was telling the team that others who are critics who have never touched the football,” Zuma said while visiting the Bafana Bafana camp in Orlando Stadium, Soweto. “They don’t know how it feels to be inside here.”
Flanked by sports minister Fikile Mbalula, Zuma said the players had to relax before their matches. He said the whole of South Africa was behind the team.
When Zuma took to the field to pose with the team, the Bafana Bafana players greeted him with a rendition of his trademark song, “Awulethu Umshini Wami” [bring me my machine-gun].
He was also presented with a personalised team jersey.
South Africa last won the tournament in 1996 when they beat Tunisia 2-0 in the final. And since they were the hosts then, the pressure is on the boys to deliver again in front of the home fans under coach Gordon Igesund.
They last appeared at the Afcon in 2008 in Ghana.