CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa's players are "a bunch of losers" and the former World Cup host's national team is in a state of crisis, the country's outspoken sports minister said Monday.
Fikile Mbalula, often a vocal supporter of South African sports teams, launched his stinging and surprising criticism of Bafana Bafana a day after they lost 3-1 to Nigeria and were eliminated at home in the group stage of the lower-level African Nations Championship.
"What I saw was not a problem of coaching, it was a bunch of losers," Mbalula said. "Their performance was not even lackluster, it was useless. The mediocrity that was displayed yesterday ... we must never wake up to that again."
Mbalula said he felt like "just standing up and walking out" of Sunday's loss to Nigeria at Cape Town Stadium.
"We indeed have a crisis of monumental proportions," he said, describing the players as "unbearable, useless individuals."
Mbalula's assessment — sitting alongside South African Football Association President Danny Jordaan — came amid deepening gloom for South Africa's football followers, whose team appears to be regressing after being the first African host of a World Cup.
Playing at home again, South Africa only beat Mozambique in Group A at the African Nations Championship, the continental tournament for home-based players. It drew with Mali and was outplayed by Nigeria and only scored through a late penalty after Stephen Keshi's young Super Eagles team — missing all its Europe-based stars — had put the result beyond doubt.