Cape Town – The debate still rages on about whether the Zulu word “Mlungu” should be viewed in the same light as the dreaded “k” word and be banned.
Mlungu means “white person” or “white person from the sea”. And in some communities this word is seen to be just as derogatory as some of the words used to degrade black people in apartheid South Africa.
Lately, wherever Bafana Bafana play, cries of “Mlunguuuuuu” can be heard every time the sole white player in the team touches the ball. But that is not a shameful cry or a demeaning one. On the contrary, the cry couldn’t be more endearing, even if the player in question is “from over the sea”.
Dean Furman has forced himself into the hearts of the South African public since Bafana coach Gordon Igesund gave him his international debut in a friendly against Brazil last September. And it was in that match where we could see there is something special about this midfielder.
As a rookie, ahead of your first match against the mighty Brazil, most players would have probably kept quiet and hoped to play a few minutes. But leading up to his debut, Igesund praised Furman for his leadership skills and the way he came into the Bafana team and took charge.
However, it’s not just his leadership and communication skills on the field that are top-class, but his football ability and his football brain that make him one of the most valuable members of the national team at the moment.
His anticipation, range of passing and ball control in a tight squeeze make him a vital cog in defence and attack for South Africa. On Saturday we also saw him get into such a brilliant position to score his first international goal against Botswana in Saturday’s bitter-sweet World Cup qualifier.
Furman showed his quality during the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, and he was again magnificent against Botswana.
Furman has been directly involved in Bafana’s improvement in the transition from defence to attack as he always looks to get the ball forward as quickly as possible. In the past we have seen too many touches by South African midfielders, which allows defences to organise themselves a lot quicker.
With Furman doing the hard yards in midfield and setting Bafana’s attacking players free with his direct passing, South Africa will hopefully be able to score more goals than they have over the last decade or so.
South Africa haven’t managed to qualify for a World Cup since 2002 and the national team last played in a major tournament outside our borders in 2008. For a country with such vast resources and top junior talent, Bafana should be competing at World Cups and Afcons.
Igesund made the right noises after Bafana missed out on qualification for next year’s showpiece in Brazil, saying it’s time to get the country’s junior structures going again.
But at senior level, he can’t go wrong by building a team around Furman that can compete with the best in Africa again.
So the word “Mlungu” might be banned in future, but for now, Dean Furman is Mzansi’s Mlungu.
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