National

My city, my World Cup: Clive Barker

Niren Tolsi

We chat to Clive Barker, former Bafana Bafana coach and the only one to have led the national team to a trophy -- the 1996 Africa Nations Cup title.

We’ve heard it all already: the World Cup is supposed to create jobs, bring more people into the economy and leave an infrastructural legacy to be marvelled at. The tournament will also serve as a unifying moment as “rainbow nationalism” is galvanised around the tournament and Bafana Bafana.

But what do South Africans say about the World Cup? The Mail & Guardian will, in the following weeks, be canvassing well-known residents of some of the major host cities to find out what the World Cup means to them.

This week, we chat to Clive Barker, former Bafana Bafana coach (now Amazulu technical director) and the only one to have led the national team to a trophy—the 1996 Africa Nations Cup title.

What are your expectations of the World Cup?
A fantastic performance from Bafana Bafana. Their qualifying for the second round of the tournament is vitally important.

What has been the biggest challenge for the country in terms of preparing to host the World Cup?
Adjusting to all the criticism levelled against the country and then accepting that it was, and is, going to happen. There were a lot of sceptics critical of our crime, [saying] stadiums weren’t going to be ready in time ... I think they will continue to be proved wrong.

What has been the biggest shortcoming in preparations?
Unfortunately, the team itself. We went through a difficult period under [former coach Joel] Santana. He didn’t understand the local playing conditions or know the players too well—losing nine out of 10 matches certainly didn’t help. But [current Bafana coach Carlos Alberto] Parreira has been building up very methodically towards the World Cup and he’s getting the balance right.

What’s special about Durban for World Cup tourists?
We have the greatest beachfront in the world with the best climate, even during winter. It’s early winter now and you’d be mad to be wearing anything besides slops and short sleeves. The ocean will be warm and perhaps reflects the locals: we’re the friendliest, most easy-going in the country.

Three tips on things to do between matches in Durban?
Tourists will be spoilt for choices. The Drakensberg mountains, the game parks to check out the Big Five and the world-class golf courses.

How do you think the World Cup will change football?
A legacy for young footballers will be seeing some of the greatest players in the world in their backyards—[Lionel] Messi, [Wesley] Sneijder, [Cristiano] Ronaldo and even [Steven] Pienaar—this is going to be inspirational for them. Thirty years ago we didn’t even have international football to watch [because of sporting sanctions]. Now, the kids will be going to bed dreaming of these players and of scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final in 20 years’ time.

What I’ve also noticed since Moses Mabhida opened is that [Amazulu] are getting more Indian and white people coming to watch us when we played there.

We were also getting more ladies coming to the football—probably to check out the footballers—and this is likely to increase during the World Cup when they come to see who is hotter—Ronaldo or Kaka? [during the Brazil vs Portugal match in Durban].

Bafana’s chances?
Realistically, it’s going to be difficult to qualify for the knock-out phase. We can do it, but we need to beat Mexico [in the opening match]. In 1996 we put down Cameroon—a big team—in the opening match. This built confidence, got the crowd behind us and meant we had three points from which we could consolidate the group stage.

If we played France at basketball we would probably lose because [Thierry] Henry would use his hands, but I think we can also beat them—they’re not as fluent as they were 10 years ago.

South African players to watch out for?
Pienaar, obviously. Orlando Pirates’ Andile Jali, if he gets a game, will be a revelation.

Anything that you would have done differently in the team preparations?
Player development and building consistency was vitally important. Unfortunately you get that only if you have a development system producing youngsters, which we still don’t have — Perhaps things happened too quickly for us when we were readmitted [into competitive international sports] and then won the Nations Cup in 1996..

Tip for the cup?
South Africa. I think we have the ability and the country will get behind the team with their passion ­- it happened in 1996.

What matches will you be going to?
I have about 10 games, including the opening and closing ceremonies where I’ll be working as a commentator and presenter.


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