Questions over Burnley star Lyle Foster’s Bafana Afcon inclusion

Bafana Bafana’s Lyle Foster dribbles with the ball of during a international friendly against DR Congo. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu / BackpagePix

Bafana Bafana’s Lyle Foster dribbles with the ball of during a international friendly against DR Congo. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu / BackpagePix

Published Dec 16, 2023


A hard-fought 2-1 win over Benin in Durban and a surprise 2-0 loss to Rwanda in Kigali four days later in the opening round of the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers last month, proved that Bafana Bafana missed their highly-rated strikers Lyle Foster and Lebo Mothiba.

Those two games were the last for Bafana this year as their next Fifa break will be in the New Year with the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) from January 13 to February 11.

Both Europe-based strikers were called up by coach Hugo Broos, but sidelined for different reasons.

France-based Mothiba, who has a well-documented injury history, was replaced by Orlando Pirates counterpart Evidence Makgopa.

Makgopa himself hobbled off during the match in Kigali and was replaced by fellow Sea-robber, Zakhele Lepasa.

Both Pirates strikers are among Broos’s favourite forwards for Bafana, as they made the 50-man provisional squad, but they are yet to score for their club from that last Bafana call-up.

After being sidelined for at least two months because of mental health issues, Foster – South Africa’s most expensive footballer of all time (bought by Burnley for €7 million, about R131m) – made Broos’s 50-man squad.

It was his club Burnley who broke the news a week before he was due to travel to South Africa to join Bafana in camp, as his coach stressed the importance of putting “human first”.

“In moments like this you have to put the human first and that is what we did.

“We are doing everything we can to get him to a place where he can do what he enjoys doing the most, which is playing football as soon as possible,” Burnley coach Vincent Kompany was quoted saying.

The support shown to Foster has been good, but the main thing is how long will he be out for and will he make it in time to be considered for Afcon?

Things are still not looking good for the Soweto-born player, who has been rumoured to make a field return at least on December 26, when his club faces Liverpool in the Premier League.

By Caf requirements, nations going to the 34th Afcon edition must submit their 55 men provisional squads before the end of the year.

New Year’s celebrations might as well be held in camps as Caf requires the final 23 as soon as 10 days before the opening match on January 13, which makes it January 3.

“Human first” as Kompany stressed about Foster’s serious and complex condition, but if the 23-year-old is to make it to West Africa, he is facing a serious race against time.

Foster has been one of Broos’ shining stars and no doubt the Belgian had his name among those at the top of the list for the Afcon squad.

If he makes his return on December 26, no doubt Broos will be watching closely to see if he can include the forward in his squad.

One will expect that, being countrymen, Kompany and Broos have an easy relationship that allows them to share updates on Foster’s recovery, which would be in the best interests of the player as far as his first Afcon dream is concerned.

The Afcon is running parallel with the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, which gets underway in Qatar on January 12, with the final being held on February 10.