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SA diplomats in Poland to probe soccer player Thulani Cele’s arrest in Georgia

Thulani Cele was arrested earlier this month. Picture: Supplied

Thulani Cele was arrested earlier this month. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 21, 2022


Johannesburg - The Department of International Relations has said it will enlist the help of the South African embassy in Poland to investigate the arrest of former Amazulu player Thulani Cele, who was arrested in Georgia, after being lured for Gagra FC trials that turned out to be a scam.

This, after countless attempts by the family of the soccer player to get help.

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In a radio interview with SA FM this week, the footballer’s father, Bongani Shongwe, said the family has reached out to International Affairs and shared all the details relating to the trip, however, they have encountered many challenges because South Africa does not have an embassy in Georgia.

“We are just begging the government to use any resources they have at their disposal to find my son,” Shongwe expressed.

Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said on Tuesday they had only just become aware of Cele’s plight on Tuesday.

“The matter was only brought to us today and we do not have an embassy in Georgia, so we would have to enlist help from the embassy in Poland to investigate the circumstances around the arrest of the player.”

The 22-year-old soccer player, who hoped to break into international football in Europe, enlisted the help of an agent he met while in the Nedbank Ke Yona squad.

Cele travelled under the impression that he was going for trials at Gagra FC, however, he discovered that it was all allegedly a scam upon arrival in Georgia, when the team said they did not know of any trials.

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“Thulani's trip to Georgia was organised by a man named Baggio, that we met through the Nedbank Ke Yona initiative. We then paid for Thulani's travelling costs and Baggio was supposed to book his accommodation, and Thulani gave Baggio's connection in Georgia money for his accommodation when he got there,” said Shongwe during an interview.

Cele is said to have last spoken to his family on June 3, when he was preparing to return home after the unfortunate incident; however, on the same day he was expected to return, his grandmother received a phone call about his arrest, without providing more details.

Cele’s father has expressed his concern and has called out for help from the government to assist his son return home.

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