Bafana’s Ronwen Williams not basking in Afcon glory as new dawn awaits

Bafana captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams speaks during a public address at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg

Bafana captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams speaks during a public address at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 15 February 2024. Picture: Michael Sherman

Published Feb 15, 2024


Bafana Bafana’s players might still be basking in the glory of their third-place finish at the Africa Cup of Nations, but they want to build on that momentum quickly.

Bafana landed back on South African shores on Wednesday morning following their impressive outing at the recently concluded Afcon in Ivory Coast.

And they were given a warm welcome at OR Tambo International Airport as fans defied the early Valentine’s Day festivities to duly welcome them back.

But for Bafana captain Ronwen Williams, the fact that they were the third-best team at the finals hadn’t sunk in yet.

‘Living in the moment’

“Not yet. We are still living in the moment. What we’ve achieved over the last few weeks still feels unreal,” Williams said in the media briefing afterwards.

Williams had the right to feel that way. While the entire team punched above their weight to finish third as a collective, he led from the front most of the time.

He didn’t only take charge when the team entered through the gates of the international arrivals hall, but on the pitch with his incredible saves as well.

On top of his match- or draw-saving stops, he made six saves in the penalty shoot-outs, including four from five spot-kicks against Cape Verde in the quarter-final.

According to reports, that was the highest number of penalty shoot-out saves that were made by a single keeper during the first five attempts. But not that Williams cared initially.

“We’ve seen … all the records that we’ve broken as a team. And because you are in the moment, and thinking about the next game, you don’t look for praise,” he said.

“You just want to do well in the next game. So, I am just proud of the boys – first with the brotherhood that we’ve had from day one.

“The spirit that we’ve had among us has been very good. I think that’s one of the reasons we grew together. They made things easy for me as the captain.”

Teboho Mokoena shines

It wasn’t only Williams that was still in awe of their success in Ivory Coast, but so too midfielder Teboho Mokoena, who silenced his detractors.

Mokoena was ridiculed for being crowned the PSL Footballer of the Season last term despite his limited exploits for Mamelodi Sundowns.

But he proved his worth at Afcon, as he not only racked up two goals and one assist, but also marshalled the engine room against European-based superstars.

It has since been reported that Mokoena has attracted vast interest in Europe, including from English Premier League outfit Bournemouth and French Ligue 1 side AS Monaco.

But Mokoena wasn’t thinking about that upon his arrival back in the country yesterday, instead relishing the moment of being in the presence of politician Julius Malema.

“He’s my favourite president in the country,” Mokoena said of the EFF leader, whose followers filled the arrival hall.

“This is the proudest moment for my life, my family and everyone. Please keep on supporting us, and we’ll keep making the country proud always.”

Mokoena is right to plead with their fans to continue backing them. The hard work doesn’t stop now, as there is the 2025 Afcon and 2026 World Cup qualifying on the horizon.

Building on strong foundation

Williams also knows this, and he called on his teammates to build on their Afcon performance in Ivory Coast as they go into the qualifiers for both events later this year.

“With the resilience and mentality that we have now as the team, we need to keep going and fighting,” the Gqeberha-born player added.

“We’ve got a good thing going now. We need to take it further, and continue going and grinding. I just want to thank everyone for the support and messages.”

Bafana will be back on the pitch on March 21 in a friendly against Andorra in Algeria, while they will play their next World Cup qualifiers in June against Nigeria away and Zimbabwe at home.


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