Durban – Oldham captain Dean Furman enjoyed a red-letter day at the weekend, with his club toppling Liverpool in the FA Cup and South Africa qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.
The Cape Town-born defensive midfielder had chosen country over club and was part of the 2013 Nations Cup hosts' side that came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Morocco in Durban on Sunday to seal top spot in Group A.
That puts Bafana Bafana on a collision course with the Group B runners-up, back in Durban on Saturday, South Africa's first appearance in the last eight in 11 years.
Hopes are building in this Indian Ocean city that Furman and his national teammates can emulate the class of '96, which went all the way to lift the continental showcase the last time it was staged on home soil.
While the 24-year-old was turning out at Moses Mabhida Stadium, 13,000 kilometres away in England his third-tier side were performing heroics against Liverpool, beating the Premier League outfit 3-2 in the FA Cup.
Currently 19th in League One, Oldham are 56 places below Liverpool in the English league pyramid and join Millwall, non-league Luton Town, Milton Keynes Dons and Leeds United as fourth-round giant-killers.
Furman, whose father is a dentist, cut his footballing teeth at Chelsea's youth academy, and joined his present League One outfit after spells with Bradford and Rangers.
He is relishing his experience at this Nations Cup, were on Sunday he earned his eighth cap, and was voted Man of the Match after helping to engineer South Africa's 2-0 win over Angola last week which set them fair for the knockout stages.
“Obviously, we have our fans at Oldham, but this is on another level. The fans are really passionate and if we can just give a little bit back that would be great as well,” he told the South African media.
Furman, who was not chosen for South Africa's first game against fellow qualifiers Cape Verde, added: “I might not have the skills of some of the boys, but I like to think what I have helps the more flamboyant players get on the ball.”
He says he has taken time to get used to the African tradition of singing and dancing in the changing rooms.
“On my first trip to Brazil I was right on the outside looking in, and now I'm trying to learn a few words and join in.
“At Oldham, we've got the big iPod thing now where everyone's got headphones on and tries to get in his zone, whereas here, with all their singing and dancing, the boys get in rhythm together and it lifts everyone.”
He believes the sky is the limit now for South Africa, declaring: “Once you're in knockout foootball, anything is possible.” – Sapa-AFP