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South Africa’s Afcon hero Mokoena lands in political storm



South Africa’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) hero Teboho Mokoena painted the welcome ceremony with a surprise stroke of political colour, expressing admiration for Julius Malema, the fiery leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

“I am very happy to see Julius Malema. He is my favourite president in the country,” said Mokoena.

The Bafana Bafana star midfielder, who is part of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Best XI for the just-ended tournament, uttered the remarks as the South African national team arrived back in the country at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Just past 5:00 am, Mokoena and his teammates, laden with luggage from their African odyssey, emerged from the airport’s international arrivals terminal.

A wave of cheers washed over them, the fans, some in the red of EFF regalia erupting in joyous pandemonium. Beaming smiles broke out across the players’ faces, their bronze medals catching the early morning light.

Mokoena found himself thrust onto the stage to address the massive crowd after Bafana Bafana defied the odds to secure the bronze medal, which has renewed hope in the perennially underachieving team.

South Africa beat DR Congo 6-5 on penalties following a goalless draw in 120 minutes on Saturday, with the host nation, Ivory Coast, edging Nigeria 2-1 in the final in Abidjan on Sunday.

Bafana’s welcome ceremony was graced by several high-profile figures, including Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, SA Football Association (Safa) President Danny Jordaan, Minister of Sports Zizi Kodwa, and Malema, among others.

With election season underway in South Africa, who Mokoena will vote for is clear.

Meanwhile, Malema explained that EFF supporters attended Bafana Bafana’s welcome due to concerns about a low turnout at the early morning event. The supporters were prominent among the several thousand fans who greeted Bafana at the airport upon their return, some arriving as early as 4 am.

“What made me come was their (Bafana’s) performance. You must lose after putting up a fight,” he said.

“There was a period where Bafana was like real cows. They could miss [kicking] a stationary ball. “But this time, we saw the highest form of internationally competitive football. So, when people have lost but after putting up such a big fight, you have to go to them and say, ‘Well done’ to encourage them, and they will perform much better in the future.”

How South Africans reacted to Mokoena’s pronouncement via X, formerly Twitter:

@EFFSouthAfrica posted: “Bafana Bafana player Teboho Mokoena acknowledging the only president who came to welcome them home.”

@BraHlonisky mentioned: “Ta Julius is the people’s favourite. Teboho Mokoena is lucky Mbalula is no longer Sports Minister.”

@Am_Blujay shared: “Chest pains on the TL as Teboho Mokoena calls Julius Malema his favourite president.”

@Naychapoi99 said: “Next thing you gonna hear, Teboho Mokoena owes SARS.”

@chynamandj responded: “Pain went straight to those who’ve been claiming the victory of the boys. Basebenzile abafana.”

@Atli_ZA_ replied: “I’m not surprised that he favours Julius Malema over the other one. The other one is not showing any interest or support towards Bafana Bafana.”



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