South African football legend and former national team skipper, Lucas Radebe believes it is imperative for Bafana Bafana to reach at least the semi-finals of next year's FIFA Confederations Cup.
Radebe, who captained Bafana Bafana for many years including at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/ Japan™, said the host owe it to their fans to erase the sad memories of the recent disappointing results when some of the world's greatest teams descend to South Africa for the tournament.
"A lot has been said about Bafana Bafana lately and at the moment, the world has an opinion about the team, I'm not sure it's a good opinion," he said. "That is why it is important for the boys to perform very well in this Confederations Cup. They owe it to their fans, they need to perform well and get the momentum going for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa."
"One of the most important things for a home team is support, and let's be honest, the fans will only support them if they win games. The team is the pride of the nation, it will represent our hopes in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. South Africa must aim for the semi-finals and once they are there, anything can happen. In 90 minutes of football, there are no favourites, its all about who wants it most."
Having missed out on qualifying for the 2010 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Radebe insists that the FIFA Confederations Cup will be a yardstick to gauge the team's progress and readiness for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
He expressed confidence in the side, although he admits that a lot of work still needs to be done to fine-tune the side before the nation's moment of glory.
"We have some good players in the teams and with experienced guys like Benni (McCarthy) and Aaron (Mokoena), we have people who can lead from the front," continued Radebe, known as 'the Chief' during his playing days with Leeds United. "It won't happen again in our generation that we see the worlds best teams coming to our country and that is the concept our players must grasp, it is something that must be at the back of their mind. Whenever they walk onto the field, they must think of the millions of people in this country who have pinned their hopes on them, that is a huge responsibility that comes naturally with wearing your country's jersey."
Speaking on South Africa's preparations off the field of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009, Radebe said he was impressed with the work that has been done by the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Local Organising Committee.
"Our stadiums are looking good and I am optimistic," he said. "South Africans love football and I'm sure that when seven other teams arrive in the country, they will enjoy their stay in the country. I can tell you that people will have a unique African experience. The whole country is excited about the tournament and I have no doubt in my mind that it will be a success."