It’s Bafana Bafana practice at the Palmeiras training camp in São Paulo, and one player is a particular bundle of energy, with his voice as well as his feet.
Charging around in the midfield, and yelling out instructions at his teammates, is midfielder Dean Furman, who seems remarkably adapted to his surroundings for a man who is only in a Bafana camp for the second time in his career.
“That’s just my character,” says Furman one afternoon at the team hotel, the Hilton Morumbi.
“Being vocal, helping others, and always trying to improve – that’s just how I am and there is no point being any different here.”
Furman’s leadership skills have not gone unnoticed throughout his career, the 24-year-old captaining sides from Glasgow Rangers’ youth team to his current stint as club captain at Oldham Athletic in League One.
He has certainly impressed Bafana coach Gordon Igesund this week, to the extent that he looks highly likely to earn a first Bafana cap, with a start in central midfield against Brazil at the Estadiio Morumbi this evening.
“It would be incredible,” said Furman of the opportunity to face Brazil on their own turf.
“To be with the national squad is something I have always dreamt of, regardless of who it is against. But to play against Brazil, one of the best teams in the world, would be a bonus.”
It has been a long wait for Furman to get back into the national squad. His first call-up came under Joel Santana, in 2008, for a friendly against Australia in London. Furman trained with Santana’s squad, but did not make it off the bench.
“I never came on and that was a disappointment, but the overall experience of getting to know the boys, and getting a couple of days training in and around the team has lived with me ever since.”
Taking to the field this afternoon in a midfield battle against players of the caliber of Chelsea’s Oscar and Ramires will certainly be a step up from England’s third tier for Furman. Yet he should not be too intimidated. After all, his footballing career began at the very same West London club.
Furman was born to South African parents in Cape Town in 1988, and lived in Camps Bay in the Mother City for his first five years, before his father’s work took the family to London.
Furman was connected to South African football through his uncle Marc Reingold, a fullback in the top flight with Hellenic.
“My dad would take me to watch, I was very young and I don’t remember much. I will always remember listening on the radio and I was very excited when I heard his (Mark’s) name. He is very proud (of my Bafana call-up) as are the rest of my family.”
In London, Furman started with Chelsea’s development team from the age of nine, and was there as billionaire Roman Abramovich took over, turning the club into the global force they are today.
“It was incredible. It was around the time when Abramovich came in. To see all those world-class players come in, to be in and around the training ground and see what they do… , how they look after themselves, and how they train has stuck with me.”
Furman was never able to make the step up into Chelsea’s first team, which is hardly a novelty for Chelsea’s academy players.
“It is very difficult to get into the first team there. I still speak to players there now and they say it is difficult. You get to an age where on a Saturday you want to be walking out at 3pm for a league game, with three points at stake. You don’t want to be 21 or 22 and playing in the reserves.
“I was lucky enough to be coached by Brendan Rodgers, the current Liverpool coach. What I learnt from him in two years was incredible. He is an unbelievable coach.
“Being among players like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba is something… I’ll take a lot from, and something that has hopefully benefited my career.”
In 2006 Furman moved from Chelsea north of the border to Glasgow Rangers. The following year, he captained the Rangers youth team to the league and cup double.
Furman’s first taste of regular senior football, however, came in England, when he was loaned by Rangers to Bradford City in League Two in 2008. “I had a great year (at Bradford),” he said.
”Being back in England and close to my family was also important.”
In 2009, Furman was signed by League One outfit Oldham, where he has been ever since, captaining the side for the last two seasons. “It’s my second year of being captain and it’s a great responsibility,” he says.
“I am still young and always learning to improve my game.”
Given that it was around four years between his Bafana call-ups, Furman admits he was surprised when he got the call from Igesund.
“I got a phone call from the manager a few weeks ago. He spoke to my manager (former Everton striker Paul Dickov is in charge at Oldham, to find out a bit more about me and a week after that I got the call-up letter. I was a surprised when I got the initial phone call, but in football anything can happen, you always have to be on your toes. I’m just very excited to get the call up.”
While Furman fits the mould more of a defensive midfielder, he can also get forward, and even get a few goals.
One rocket for Oldham against Notts County was even voted the Football League’s Goal of the Year in 2011.
“I like to do a bit of both (attacking and defending),” says Furman.
“I’m a bit more defensive, and I break up play, but I can also get on the ball and start attacks.”
And with League One not getting a lot of coverage on television in South Africa, Furman has been determined to make the best of his time to impress Igesund this week.
He also admits that playing in the 2013 African Nations Cup and the 2014 World Cup qualifiers and final tournament with Bafana is something that sits “at the back of my mind”.
“My aim for the ten days here with the squad was to be in the manager’s plans. It is very difficult in that being on the other side of the world, the manager won’t see that much of me. So it is even more important to do well here.”
And the first true chance to shine comes on Friday against Brazil. Can Bafana really spring a surprise on the five-time world champions?
“We hope so. Football is all about surprises. The way the manager is putting his method across, we want to get something out of the game. No team goes out to lose and Friday will be no different. There is a togetherness about the group and hopefully that will come out in the game and the boys can go out, do well and get a result.” – The Star