OPINION: Hopefully Zungu will soon be back in the big leagues

By Minenhle Mkhize Time of article published May 5, 2020

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BAFANA Bafana were once a dominant force in African football, but they have declined rapidly over the years.

The South African senior national men’s team were once opponents that needed to be beaten at all cost, a side rich in resources and one that needed to be brought back down to earth in those exceptional days.

They strolled to victory everywhere.

Four years after returning to international football, Bafana Bafana were crowned African champions. Two years later, they qualified for their maiden Fifa World Cup in France in 1998.

Bafana enjoyed dizzying heights of fame and fortune during those early years on the international stage. But it was a success that would not last long.

What was key to Bafana’s accomplishments in those days was exporting players into the elite leagues of Europe. Due to that fact, more players were competing at the highest level and could be hand-picked to compete in the national team.

I know that people will say that they have heard this argument many times, so what is the point of reiterating it? Yes, you are right, you’ve heard it many times before, but stay with me as I argue my point.

My destination is France. That is where a contingency of Bafana players are currently enjoying their football. Ligue 1 decided to end their league season because of the coronavirus pandemic last week.

As a result, Paris Saint-Germain will reign supreme and Amiens and Toulouse were relegated. It was a major blow for Bongani Zungu, who is currently on the books of Amiens. Relegation means he will be campaigning in the second tier of French football next season.

That’s not what Bafana need at this stage.

I know there are some issues that need to be ironed out between Zungu and current Bafana boss Molefi Ntseki. I am convinced that they will be able to bury the hatchet and sort out their differences. We need them both.

Zungu was colossal for Bafana in last year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, but I guess that seems to have gone to his head. Such things can be sorted out, however.

Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

At least he still has that burning desire to don the Bafana jersey, but that doesn’t mean that because he plies his trade overseas, he should just walk into the team and he should do things the way it pleases him. He needs to respect Ntseki. That is imperative.

But the story of his side’s relegation is a sad one.

The 28-year-old did enough to showcase what he is capable of. He missed out on a move to Spain on deadline day of the January transfer window, so I’m optimistic that he will find a premier division club.

We want our top players to campaign in top European leagues, as it used to be with Lucas Radebe, Eric Tinkler, David Nyathi, Quinton Fortune, Benni McCarthy and Shaun Bartlett in Bafana’s heyday.

That’s what made the national team a force to be reckoned with.

On a good note, though, Keagan Dolly and Lebo Mothiba will still be campaigning in Ligue 1 next season. Happily, Montpellier and Strasbourg retained their Ligue 1 status.

@Minenhlecr7

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