South Africa vice-captain Siphiwe Tshabalala admits he was hurting after Pitso Mosimane was sacked as national team boss on Monday night.
Mosimane, who has threatened legal action against his dismissal, was fired in the wake of a 1-1 draw with Ethiopia in a 2014 World Cup qualifier - Bafana Bafana's seventh straight game without a win.
Steve Komphela, formerly Mosimane's assistant, will take the reins for Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Botswana in Gaborone.
"It was disturbing to see the coach leave... personally a very sad moment," Tshabalala said in the Cape Times.
"I worked with him for six years and he played a role of a father figure to me. I will always be grateful for that. He was the best."
The Kaizer Chiefs winger continued: "We were all feeling down, not happy at all. But a decision has been taken and we must respect it. Coach Pitso laid the foundation and it's up to us to deliver."
Tshabalala feels Bafana played well in Mosimane's two-year reign but they were unable to close out games, costing them a spot at the Africa Cup of Nations staged earlier this year.
"It's very worrying that with the quality we have, we are playing too many draws and do not win," said Tshabalala.
"There's no doubt we are playing well, but when you're not winning, someone has to pay the price and unfortunately it had to be the coach."
On the stalemate with Ethiopia, 'Shabba' concedes Bafana failed to turn up in Rustenburg.
"We failed as a team. It would be unfair to make excuses, because we went through a two-week preparation for that game," he said.
"We analysed them, watched videos and were all eager to perform. But on match-day, the opposite happened...we undermined the opponents and we actually got a shock of our lives to see how dedicated they are."
The 28-year-old added: "We have to apologise to the nation and promise that such a poor performance will not happen again."