Bafana Bafana will have a sports psychologist in camp for their World Cup qualifier against Burkina Faso at FNB Stadium on October 7‚ South African Football Association (Safa) CEO Dennis Mumble said.
The psychologist would work on the players’ mental toughness after away and home 2-1 defeats against Cape Verde that left Bafana’s Russia 2018 ambitions almost in tatters, he said. SA can restore a faint chance of qualification with victory against 49th-ranked Burkina Faso.
Coach Stuart Baxter identified the mental aspect of his Bafana players as being the key to the Cape Verde defeats.
His argument appeared to be strengthened by now confirmed reports that at least four players partied hard in the team hotel in Durban after the second defeat on September 5.
Mumble said Safa will look at employing sports psychologists to tackle this aspect.
"We have to work on the mind-set of the players. What is it that we cannot get our players to raise the psychological preparedness for these kinds of big events? Because there clearly is something wrong. Every time I ask a coach‚ ‘why did the team perform in the way that it did?’ the answer is always‚ ‘the mind-set’. So, we are now really seriously talking to some sports psychologists to see that they come and work with the team on a permanent basis.
"And it’s not just in a group setting. It’s one-on-one. Because each player is different in character. And work with them consistently‚ even if it doesn’t mean just in the camp itself‚ but outside it too," Mumble said.
"The chief psychologist obviously is the coach. But there needs to be a level of professional psychology that needs to be applied here.
"The coach is working with us to identify a group of sports psychologists and people with experience in the field to work with our players to get them a bit more mentally tough for these big occasions."
Asked if a sports psychologist would be employed for the game against Burkina Faso‚ Mumble replied: "Yes‚ this is part of what I’m saying. The chief medical officer has been asked to go and make sure that we get a sports psychologist who comes in the next camp to work with the players."