Football: Picture is developed and looks best in black and white - John Carlin in Johannesburg on the three-match series against Cameroon that saw South African football reborn

ONE DREAM bit the dust and another was born on South Africa's football pitches last week after a three-match visit by Cameroon which at last provided more than speculative answers to questions long asked about South Africa's standing on the international stage.

The dream of African solidarity, of those special emotions the South African 'oppressed' are supposed to elicit among the peoples to the north, did not last beyond the first match on Tuesday night in Durban, which South Africa won 1-0 after a fiercely disputed penalty. Friendly or no friendly, the Cameroon defenders did not spare their markedly spindlier brothers the scything knee-high tackles that characterised Cameroon's otherwise glorious 1990 World Cup.

But while, physically, some were calling it 'Les Lions Indomptables' versus The Pygmies, what emerged was that South Africa have a team to compete with the best in Africa, a team that could reach the final stages of the World Cup in 1994. The second match, on Thursday in Cape Town, Cameroon won 2-1 after having two players sent off. The final match, in Johannesburg on Saturday, was a 2-2 draw which South Africa, coming back twice from behind, might have won.

Never before had South Africa fielded a truly representative, multi-racial team in international football. While 99 per cent of the people who follow South African football are black, a good number of the players, and many of the coaches, are white. The players who competed last week included two whites, the captain, Neil Tovey, and the goalkeeper, Mark Anderson.

On the stands in the 78,000 capacity First National Bank stadium on Saturday, Tovey provoked as much affection, if not as much admiration, among the running commentators in the crowd as 'Doctor' Khumalo, the velvet-footed midfielder who tucked away the 79th minute penalty winner at the historic Durban match.

Stanley 'Screamer' Tshabalala, the national team coach, consistently singled out the blond-haired Tovey for special praise in his post-match press conferences last week. 'Neil is a battler who leads by example, something we don't have too much of among our black players. He knows he's not a player with flair but he is me on the pitch. He knows when to tell the players to go back, to push up. We have great understanding, so much so that before I selected the squad we talked a lot so I could get his views.'

Tovey is a perfect complement to the likes of Khumalo, 'Ace' Khuze and Fani Madida, the sort of players who - as has been noted by the former Manchester United and England goalkeeper Gary Bailey (who has played for Soweto's Kaizer Chiefs and is now a local sports broadcaster) - can do things with a tennis ball that ordinary English First Division players cannot do with a football.

'With blacks and whites in South Africa, that's where we have a possible edge over the rest of Africa,' Tshabalala said. 'We can produce teams blending battlers with players of flair.' Tovey is one of those players who will chase and harry the opposition all afternoon, is always available for the ball and has the humility and good sense promptly to release it to players more skilful than himself. Having said that, at no point did he justify his manager's faith more than in the second half of Saturday's game when he slipped through a ball to winger Bennet Masinga as perfectly weighted and timed as Maradona's to Caniggia for Argentina's winner against Brazil in 1990. On the run, Masinga put away South Africa's second equaliser without breaking his stride.

The ultra - not to say cynical - professionalism of that Argentina team is precisely what the South Africa team lacks, however. The second Cameroon goal on Saturday came about in the 40th second of the second half with the South African defence either asleep or concentrating on the witch-doctor prancing - leopard skins and all - behind their goal.

Generally, South African players have a tendency to indulge in what Roger Milla - who, at 40, strolled his way elegantly through the three matches - criticised as 'amateurish clowning'. All too often, the likes of 'Doctor' Khumalo would find that, having dazzlingly beaten three players in the centre circle, the rest of the team would stand watching as mesmerised as the crowd with no one making the move into space necessary to capitalise on his skills.

Significantly, the most valuable of the South African players was the only one who plays in Europe, Augustine Makalakalane of FC Zurich. There was an urgency and purposefulness about this midfielder's play, starkly lacking in the rest of his team-mates, even when they were a goal down. He was almost too thoughtful for his team-mates, too often one step ahead of them.

But thrust and speed and wit, when they came, provided some delightful moments on Saturday, justifying Tshabalala's shrewdly optimistic concluding remarks on the series on Saturday evening. 'We are not world-beaters. We have a lot to learn. But what a promising start]'

Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living