DURBAN – Maritzburg United midfielder dynamo Fortune Makaringe is ready to grab his chance with both hand should he be given his debut when Bafana Bafana take on Nigeria in a crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Makaringe was a surprise package when Bafana coach Stuart Baxter announced his squad to face Nigeria last week.
The diminutive midfielder has been a vital cog in the middle of the park this season despite United’s slow start in the campaign.
Bafana has been hit by a number of injuries to key players, including Dean Furman, Bongani Zungu and Kamohelo Mokotjo.
After his side was held to a draw by Highlands Park, Makaringe said he was excited and looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“I have to be ready. That is a must. The coach didn’t call us to add numbers. We need to respect that the guys who are injured have been fighting hard for the nation, and we have to do the same.
“We have to go out there and give our best by displaying top performances as players,” Makaringe said with a smile on his face.
Makaringe will battle it out with the likes of Hlompo Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda for a spot in midfield.
“I’m really excited to be in the Bafana team. This shows that if you consistently work hard you are bound to reap the rewards for your efforts.
“For me and the team, this is really great. The call up came at the right time. It is every sportman’s dream to represent his nation.
“The Bafana call-up should always makes you happy. It doesn’t matter how it comes. You are there to represent the whole nation,” he added.
Makaringe received his Bafana call-up in a bizarre manner. He explained: “I literally had no phone when the squad was announced.
“My neighbour congratulated me ,and I was surprised because we lost to Polokwane City last weekend. I knew that I played well, but I was puzzled by the fact that he congratulating me.
“He said ‘Yes, congratulations on the call-up’. I asked him ‘Call up? How come?’, because the screen was damaged on my phone, but when I went back to fetch it, I had a lot of texts. People at home were calling me.
“Later on, Lebo (Maboe, his former teammate and friend) called me and said ‘I’ve been trying to get hold of you and you are unreachable’.
Second Day of training for Bafana Bafana ahead of Saturday's crucial AFCON qualifier with Nigeria at FNB Stadium on Saturday, 17 November pic.twitter.com/8Df8ScAWZM
“I asked him what was happening. He said I’ve been called up to the Bafana team. I then tuned in to Ibhola Lethu (sports show on TV). I then saw my name and I was happy.”
Nigeria’s Super Eagles are on top of the group with nine points.
“Football is football, but we are not scared of them, although we need to be cautious. There’s nothing to fear. The fact that they are good enough means we are also good enough. There’s a lot at stake for us,” Makaringe explained.
Baxter has been regularly calling up United midfielders in the previous Bafana matches.
Siphesihle Ndlovu has had his fair share of chances with Bafana, while Lebo Maboe – who’s now at Mamelodi Sundowns – is a regular for the national team.
“Credit must go to our technical team. They have done a lot to improve our standards as players. The courses that they have been doing are paying dividends,” Makaringe elaborated.
He will reunite with Maboe during his time with Bafana.
Lebohang Maboe and Lebo Mothiba need your support this coming weekend as South Africa take on Nigeria in an important AFCON qualifier.#ComeShowYourLove#Get2TheGame
@SAFA_net @flysaa pic.twitter.com/6Gcu27SFWz
“I’m happy to see Lebo in the national team. He has been doing well. Lebo is more like a brother to myself. I share a lot with him.
“His progress is really pushing me. He is inspiring me in life. As much as he is young, he is a motivation to me,” Makaringe concluded.