Fish: We can be proud

The FIFA Confederations Cup has gripped the nation over the last two weeks, with hundreds and thousands of people flocking to stadiums and even more watching it on television.

One South African who has been keeping a close eye on the tournament is South African football legend Mark Fish, who played for Bafana Bafana in the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup. For him it is just as great to be watching the tournament from his home grounds, as it was playing on the pitch.

"In 1997 we arrived in Saudi Arabia as the African Champions, and wanted to really perform. This was our first opportunity to play against the best teams in the world and we were really excited, and I feel that same excitement during this tournament," said Fish.

Despite South Africa's loss to Brazil last night, Fish is impressed with the successes of the FIFA Confederations Cup and sees many reasons for South Africans to celebrate this achievement. "The people have gotten behind their tournament, their team and the visiting sides too. We have seen fantastic fan support for all games, and we can be proud of this."

"This is our dress rehearsal, where we show what we can do, and we are on the right track, from here we have a whole year to improve. The world will come here and it will be a wonderful experience."

Being in the stadiums has reignited Fish's respect for the local spectators. "The atmosphere in the stadiums has been electric, the sound and the feel of the stands, the fans are making this possible. They have been so adaptable, bringing their own personality and adopting the personalities of the visiting sides, we have been great hosts in this respect."

For Fish the tournament has shown more than our readiness for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, but also has rallied a nation together behind their team. "The people are behind the team again, they are talking about Bafana Bafana despite last night's loss. There are people who never used to watch football who are getting involved, buying tickets and watching the games. I think it is the most positive thing to come out of the tournament so far, that we are optimistic again."

Unlike many detractors Fish has always had faith in Bafana Bafana's ability. "As a football player and a fan I expected South Africa to make it to the semi-finals, I looked at our group and without knowing too much about teams like New Zealand and Iraq I knew we could do it!"

After last nights performance Fish is confident the team will perform well in 2010. "I was truly fortunate to be there last night. The national support showed on the pitch, and last night was the best I've seen Bafana play in a very long time. For 88 minutes we held our own, and we lost to a brilliant goal, we were great. I am so much more excited for the World Cup after last night's performance. Well done boys."

Having played for the national side for many years Fish is no stranger to the global stage of FIFA tournaments. "I've been to the World Cup before, but this is a first for so many people here in South Africa. This is our World Cup, this is Africa's World Cup, and we must make it ours with our Vuvuzelas and our outfits, and it will be incredible."