Fly again, SA, inhonour of Barker

The 78-year-old Barker passed away on Saturday after fighting a “brave battle” with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). Photo: Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Image

There are two sporting images which will be forever imprinted into the memory of this country: Madiba and Francois Pienaar with the Webb Ellis Cup and Bafana Bafana coach Clive Barker whizzing across the pitch, arms outstretched.

Winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995, and then the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) the following year was just the sort of start in life the new democratic nation of South Africa needed.

Barker’s triumphant “airplane” lap of honour around the FNB stadium after Bafana beat Tunisia 2-0 in the Afcon final summed up the optimism of the time.

Fly the beloved country
One newspaper captioned the image of Barker “Fly the Beloved Country”. He himself was the quintessential optimist and a man who, through his short football playing career and the rest of his life, did not see race. Nor did his players, who would have followed him to the ends of the earth.

With Barker’s death this week, South Africa lost yet another national icon and yet another link with that glorious honeymoon period after 1994, when we were on top of the world.

The best way to mourn a man like Barker, is to emulate his optimistic, colour-blind approach to life. Let’s fly once more, in his honour.

The Citizen