Bafana defender Siyanda Xulu happy to be back on the pitch after Israeli nightmare

Bafana Bafana defender Siyanda Xulu says he’s happy to back on the field again after his nightmare in Israel. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Bafana Bafana defender Siyanda Xulu says he’s happy to back on the field again after his nightmare in Israel. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Sep 19, 2022


Johannesburg — Bafana Bafana defender Siyanda Xulu says he’s happy that he’s found himself a new home at Turan-Tovuz, following a dramatic exit from Hapoel Tel Aviv.

After an impressive time with Maritzburg United – having had a spell at Kaizer Chiefs – Xulu returned to Europe, joining Israeli-top-flight outfit Tel Aviv.

He again impressed at Tel Aviv, to the extent that he was a fan favourite, with the club’s supporters chanting his name on match-day.

But things took a dramatic turn when he was detained at an Israeli airport due to ‘Covid-19 restrictions’ on his way back to the club for pre-season.

That incident resulted in the termination of his contract, and he was jobless for sometime before resurfacing in Azerbaijan, joining top-flight outfit Tovuz.

Xulu has played three games for his new club, and that saw him get a late Bafana call-up for the two friendlies against Sierra Leone and Botswana at FNB Stadium this weekend.

“It’s been great there. So far, so good. My plan wasn’t to come back home now,” Xulu told the media during Bafana’s press conference Monday.

“Even though my contract was terminated at Tel Aviv, the plan was to stay overseas and be at that level. I am happy that I found myself a new home.

“It’s not going to be easy. It’s a new environment, new culture and league. I am hoping that it’s going to be a very productive season for me and the club.”

Xulu got a late call-up to the South African team as he’s a replacement for Thibang Pete, who got injured while playing for Emirati club Al Bataeh Club.

However, his relationship with coach Hugo Broos has always been tight as they are always in contact due to his role in the national team.

“I was surprised to get a late call-up. The coach and I are always in constant communication, considering that I am also the vice-captain,” Xulu said.

“We spoke about my fitness level. And he was the one who was always asking me how everything was going. So, there was a bit of improvement recently.

“But to be honest, I wasn’t ready to come back. But he told me that he wanted to select me now so that I can get more minutes under my belt.”

Xulu (30) is one of the most experienced figures at Bafana, having been around for some time. But does he think Broos is the best coach he’s worked with at Bafana?

“It’s every player’s dream to have a coach who believes in him. It’s the first time in my Bafana career that I have a coach who believes in me,” he said.

The return of Xulu to the national team should aid Bafana’s pursuit of returning to winning ways, given that they are winless in their last four matches.

The national team also started the postponed Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on a sour note, losing away to Morocco, which means that they have to beat Liberia home and away in March.

Xulu, though, is confident that downgrading their friendly international opponents to the lowly-ranked Sierra Leone and Botswana should inspire the team to win.

“We are trying to engage the new players and get our combinations going. But we obviously want to play well and win games. That’s a priority,” he said.


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