Due to an ongoing copyright dispute, the South African national football team may be forced to drop the Bafana Bafana (which translates as ‘the boys, the boys’ in Zulu) moniker that has become so instantly familiar right across the globe following the World Cup.
The rights to the nickname were acquired by a South African businessman in 1994, meaning that the South African Football Association (SAFA) are limited to using the phrase on officially administered literature and are therefore unable to seek financial gain from using it on any of their licensed merchandise.
In 1997 the SAFA undertook legal proceedings to reclaim Bafana Bafana as their own, but the South African Supreme Court of Appeal eventually threw out the case in 2002 – eight years after the usage rights were initially procured.
The issue has risen to the fore once again as, during the World Cup in South Africa, the current copyright owners are estimated to have made over £6.5 million from the name during the build-up and staging of the tournament – a sum of money that SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani believes should have, one way or another, been re-distributed amongst the South African people;
“I want to avoid saying we are very angry about it, but we are worried about it. We are concerned.”
Nematandani went on to admit that, although the issue regarding the ‘national asset’ (i.e. the ownership of the nickname) is being discussed ‘at a national level’, it my still have to be changed if the two parties cannot reach a compromise;
“It clearly has to be done the right way, but we cannot go on in this way. It is not proper, it is not correct. The name of Bafana Bafana came from the public and we are throwing the ball back to the public.”
The issue is now being debated in the South African parliament located in Cape Town.
On Tuesday morning, after two days of discussions, the chairman of the influential parliamentary committee on sport said that the national side should discontinue their use of the Bafana Bafana nickname if the copyright issue cannot be resolved amicably, regardless of the national affection in which the nickname is held.
Although an official ruling is yet to be passed, it looks increasingly as though corporate greed may once again have to take priority over national good-will.