Bongani Zungu reveals Bafana were concerned about safety in Zambia

Bongani Zungu during the South African national men's soccer team arrival press conference at OR Tambo International Airport on July 13, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Bongani Zungu during the South African national men's soccer team arrival press conference at OR Tambo International Airport on July 13, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Gallo Images

Bafana Bafana’s French-based midfielder Bongani Zungu has revealed that the players had been worried about their safety once they touched down in Lusaka for their now-cancelled friendly against Zambia on Saturday.

Bafana were scheduled to play the Chipolopolo at Lusaka’s Heroes National Stadium but the game was called off on Tuesday by the Football Association of Zambia (Faz) in response to the latest wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

Zungu‚ a fan darling for French Ligue1 side Amiens‚ said the Bafana players actually discussed the possibility of the match being called off before it was officially cancelled by Faz.

“Actually we spoke about it as players before Zambia confirmed the cancellation of the match‚” Zungu said Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto on Wednesday‚ where Bafana beat NFD team Moroka Swallows 6-0 in training match for Saturday’s friendly against Madagascar at Orlando Stadoium that has replaced the Zambia game.

“We spoke about it and we were asking ourselves if we were going to be safe when we get to Zambia.

“When the game was cancelled it was sad‚ obviously‚ because we wanted to play. But at the end of the day safety always comes first.

“We just hope that the Government can try and sort things out‚” added the 26-year-old former University of Technology and Mamelodi Sundowns midfield enforcer.

After Zambia pulled out on Tuesday Bafana moved swiftly and a day later confirmed Madagascar as their next opponents.

The xenophobic attacks took place mostly in the big Gauteng city centres of Johannesburg and Pretoria but the violence sporadically spread to the townships‚ especially in the East Rand region where Zungu is from.

Hostilities were reported in the areas of Tembisa and Katlehong‚ a stone’s throw from nearby Duduza township where Zungu was born and bred.

Zungu arrived in South Africa from France on Tuesday morning but revealed he was worried sick about the safety of his family.

“Yeah‚ I come from the East Rand and while I was in France before coming here for the Bafana camp I was hearing stories and it was worrying‚ because everyday I had to call my family and ask them if they were okay or not‚” Zungu said.

“So as I said it is a stressful thing when you are out of the country. I hope things can be better.”

It is not the first time the xenophobic violence has reared its ugly head in South Africa and Zungu said that he and his compatriots plying their trade in Europe often have to field questions regarding the complex problem back home.

“It’s very sad what’s happening in the country. Of course as a footballer me and the other guys‚ we are foreigners in other countries and to see such things happening in our country is very sad‚” he said.

“Even our teammates in Europe‚ they speak about these kind of things. When they look at SA and see such things thing my teammates ask me‚ ‘What’s going on in your country? You guys are Africans and you treat each other like this?’”

Zungu‚ who scored a goal in the training match against Swallows‚ said 2019 Africa Cup of Nations quaterfinalists Madagascar were a strong opposition.

“I hope people will come and watch and also that maybe we can try and bring the nation together by our performance‚ and playing good football and also spreading the message of trying to find peace‚” he said.

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