Katongo slams Safa
Zambia's captain and coach, who are here for a friendly against Bafana tomorrow night, have not held back in their criticism of their hosts.
Skipper Christopher Katongo suggested that South African soccer, with all its 2010 World Cup trappings of stadiums, facilities and a league that is in the top 10 in the world (according to PSL chairman Irvin Khoza) had failed to fulfil its football promise.
He also slammed the SA Football Association for downgrading tomorrow's match at Rand stadium to a practice fixture.
"We need to use games like these to prepare for the Nations Cup.
"How is a practice match going to help us when Bafana don't have their best team?
"We need a stronger opposition," said Katongo.
He had praise for South Africa's players, but also hinted that the potential was not being realised.
"South Africa have very good players, but sometimes there can be elements missing," he said.
"It's a sad moment," said Katongo of South Africa's failure to qualify for the Nations Cup. "You can have everything, but you always need a bit more."
Bafana's failure to reach this month's Nations Cup is in stark contrast to Zambia, who finished top of their group.
He also had some advice for South Africa's football chiefs. "It can take time to move one step forward, that's football," he said.
Unlike South Africa, Katongo said the Zambian team had "quality and skill" along with "unity and team spirit". These, said the skipper, were crucial factors in their qualification campaign.
Chipolopolo finished top of their group with four wins from six games, the other two games being a draw and a defeat.
South Africa won at home against Egypt and Niger, but embarrassed themselves in the final qualifier, against Sierra Leone, when they had believed a goalless draw would be enough to see them through - only to discover afterwards that they had misread the rules, and were out.
Zambia coach Herve Renard quickly recalled the Nelspruit disaster against Sierra Leone when he remarked: "Who didn't watch Bafana's non-qualification campaign?"
Bafana became the laughing stock of world football when they danced on the touchline after the goalless draw, before discovering that they had not achieved qualification for the Nations Cup.
Katongo knows what he is talking about. He spent three seasons in the Premier League at Jomo Cosmos and scored 15 goals in 15 matches in his last year before leaving South Africa halfway through the season to join a European club.
The last time Bafana and Zambia met in Cape Town in 2007 Katongo single-handedly destroyed the national team, scoring three goals in the 3-1 victory.
He now plays as a striker for Henan Construction, based in the Chinese Super League and he hopes to end his career back in the South African league.