Legendary South African goalkeeper Brian Baloyi has recalled how excited he was when he finally became part of the Bafana Bafana squad that took part in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in 1998.
Baloyi shared goalkeeping responsibilities with Simon Gopane in Burkina Faso, and he’s still proud of helping the country win silver at the continental games.
This was two years after missing out on a place in Clive Barker’s final squad as he was on standby, and he jokingly admits he desperately wanted to be part of the team so much so that he wished someone to get injured.
“It was a dream come true. [It was] very exciting. I remember in 1996 when I missed out on being part of the team at the time and for our country to go all the way and win it. At that time, I was on standby. There were four goalkeepers in the team. You can imagine when you are on standby, you wish for someone to get injured for you to go and be part of the team,” said Baloyi in an interview with Carol Tshabalala on the La Liga Inside Show.
“But when finally in 1998, I got the call-up, I was so ecstatic. At the time, as South Africans, I think before we won Afcon ’96, South Africans in general, we didn’t know what it means to be part of Africa Cup of Nations and what a prestigious tournament it is and how a lot of our African brothers over the years had been able to showcase their talent at such a stage and be able to go to Europe from being spotted from such an event.”
“So, for myself, I was so lucky to get a starting berth as well; I played almost all the games in Burkina Faso and going all the way and losing in the final. It was such a great honour to represent my country at such a big stage,” he said.
Asked which country he feels was Bafana Bafana’s toughest opponents at Afcon ’98, Baloyi said: “It would have to be Egypt more especially in my first Afcon, we lost to them in a final. I think we know in South Africa, Egypt has always been a tough opponent for us.”
South Africa lost 2-0 to the Pharaohs at Afcon ’98 in Ouagadougou – their first and only loss at the games.
He then picked the Super Eagles of Nigeria as Bafana’s next toughest after Egypt even though the two countries never met at Afcon ’98.
“Our next toughest opponent it would have to be Nigeria. So, those two countries have always been our toughest opponents [as South Africa],” added Baloyi.