Bongani Zungu. Picture: SOWETAN
Bongani Zungu. Picture: SOWETAN

Bafana Bafana’s French-based midfielder Bongani Zungu has revealed the players had been worried about their safety in Lusaka for their now-cancelled friendly against Zambia on Saturday.

Bafana were scheduled to play the Chipolopolo at Lusaka’s Heroes National Stadium but the game was called off on Tuesday by the Football Association of Zambia (Faz) in response to the latest wave of xenophobic attacks in SA.

Zungu‚ a darling among fans of French Ligue 1 side Amiens‚ said the Bafana players discussed the possibility of the match being called off before it was officially cancelled by Faz.

“We spoke about it as players before Zambia confirmed the cancellation of the match‚” Zungu said at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto on Wednesday‚ where Bafana beat National First Division team Moroka Swallows 6-0 in a training match. SA will now play Madagascar in a friendly at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

“We were asking ourselves if we were going to be safe when we get to Zambia,” said the 26-year-old former University of Technology and Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder.

“When the game was cancelled it was sad‚ obviously‚ because we wanted to play. But safety always comes first.

“We just hope the government can try and sort things out.”

The xenophobic attacks took place mostly in the city centres of Johannesburg and Pretoria, but the violence sporadically spread to the townships‚ especially in the East Rand where Zungu is from.

Hostilities were reported in Tembisa and Katlehong‚ a stone’s throw from nearby Duduza township, where Zungu was born and bred.

Zungu arrived in SA from France on Tuesday but revealed he had been worried sick about the safety of his family.

“Yeah‚ I come from the East Rand and while I was in France before coming here for the Bafana camp I was hearing stories and it was worrying‚ because every day I had to call my family and ask them if they were okay or not‚” Zungu said.

It is not the first time xenophobic violence has reared its ugly head in SA and Zungu said he and his compatriots plying their trade in Europe often have to field questions regarding the problem.

“It’s very sad what’s happening in the country. Of course, as a footballer, me and the other guys‚ we are foreigners in other countries and to see such things happening in our country is very sad‚” he said.

“Even our teammates in Europe‚ they speak about these kind of things. When they look at SA and see such things, my teammates ask me‚ ‘What’s going on in your country? You guys are Africans and you treat each other like this’.”

Zungu‚ who scored a goal in the training match against Swallows‚ said 2019 Africa Cup of Nations quaterfinalists Madagascar were a strong opposition.

“I hope people will come and watch and also that maybe we can try and bring the nation together by our performance and playing good football — and also spreading the message of trying to find peace‚” he said.