27 October 2008
At a recent media briefing with Fifa communications director Hans Klaus, a journalist (tongue-in-cheek, we hope) said the sport's governing body should "fix" next year's Confederations Cup to ensure that South Africa's not-so-beloved Bafana Bafana won the tournament.
That way, he suggested, the world would finally take the 2010 World Cup hosts seriously.
This may be far fetched, but football is a funny game, as 2002 World Cup co-hosts (and complete no-hopers) South Korea demonstrated by making it to the semi-finals of the tournament.
It's no secret that the South African public has, for the most part, fallen out with its team, which inspired the international football community in the early years following their re-admission into the Fifa fold.
Apart from winning the continental showpiece in 1996, Bafana held their own with some of the giants of international football (Brazil, Germany, Argentina, England etc).
But then the rot set in, and the post-Clive Parker period has seen the squad slip to 85th on the latest Fifa rankings. Even worse is the fact that South Africa failed to qualify for the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola – a key curtainraiser for the World Cup.
And yet, beleaguered coach Joel Santana (who was admittedly thrown in at the deep end following the resignation of Carlos Parreira) is showing signs of finding his feet (and improving his grasp of English).
Bafana are finally showing real flashes of brilliance. Three wins in the past three matches, and a new sensation called Bernard Parker, have finally raised hopes.
"We are on the right path. The confidence has never been better," said Bafana skipper Aaron Mokoena after his side beat Ghana 2-1 in an international friendly in Bloemfontein the week before last.
Bafana round off their 2008 schedule with a match against African giants Cameroon on 19 November. Four wins in four matches could be the perfect launch pad for next year's Confederations Cup.
It's early days, but something could be stirring in the soul of our national squad.
Urquhart is a former Fifa World Cup media officer and the current editor of Project 2010.