Siyanda Xulu wants to fly high for Bafana Bafana after fake visa claim in Israel
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Johannesburg - “I wanted to prove to myself that I am still the best in the country.”
Those were the words of Bafana Bafana defender Siyanda Xulu, who was reflecting on his impressive performances for Israeli top-flight side Hapoel Tel Aviv over the last 14 months.
Deemed as one of the local players who would set not only the Premier Soccer League but the world alight with his defensive prowess, Xulu has endured a roller-coaster career that has spanned more than a decade.
He made his local top-flight debut at Mamelodi Sundowns before jetting off to Russia, joining FK Rostov.
But he heeded the call to come back home, joining Kaizer Chiefs before moving to Maritzburg United, whom he left for Tel Aviv last year.
At Tel Aviv, Xulu has been embraced on and off the pitch. In July, after he was detained at an Israel airport over a “fake visa” claim, forcing him to come back home, the team’s supporters backed him, creating the online hashtag #FreeXulu.
Bafana Bafana’s fourth encounter of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers is days away as we take on Ethiopia on 9 Oct @ 14:30 & 12 Oct @ 17:30— SABC Sport (@SPORTATSABC) October 6, 2021
Live on SABC Sport Channel on DTT @Openview 124 @mzansifosho @S3 & @TelkomONE #WeLoveItHere #BafanaBafana pic.twitter.com/raHifLfb5y
Ultimately, Xulu’s travelling issues were resolved as he joined the rest of his teammates for the start of the new term.
An his form hasn’t gone unnoticed, catching the eye of new Bafana coach Hugo Broos ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.
“The reason why I left home was because I wanted to play competitive football. I wanted to prove to myself that I am still the best in the country. And evidently, the fact that I am here proves that I am doing well for Hapoel Tel Aviv,” Xulu said, referring to back-to-back call-ups for Bafana’s World Cup qualifiers.
This is something he’s clearly not taking for granted, given that Broos is determined to establish a new dawn at Bafana. Upon taking over the reins at Bafana, Broos confirmed that he’s eager to give young players a chance.
And at 29, and having been part of the Bafana set-up previously, Xulu, the vice-captain, is one of the senior players at Bafana.
“It has always been my responsibility to take care of the younger players. If you look back to 13 years ago, I was the youngest in the team. I think that worked as an advantage to Siyanda being the Siyanda of today,” Xulu explained.
“Coaches will always demand results, so it’s just up to you as a player how you take in what he says.
“A player needs a coach that will believe in him. The new coach believes in me, and that gives me confidence to actually perform for him.”
After playing in the last qualifiers against Zimbabwe and Ghana, where they bagged four points to climb to the top of African qualifying Group G, Xulu and Co will be hoping to produce another impressive defensive display against Ethiopia away on Saturday and at home on Tuesday.
Bafana will fly out to West Africa this afternoon as the only side yet to concede a goal in the group, although Xulu knows that they will need to be at their best.
“I think two or three players who are also playing in Israel will also be part of the Ethiopian team. I think they are doing very well, and that’s why I am insistent in guarding against complacency when we face them,” he explained.
“The fact that we’ve beaten Ghana, we shouldn’t think that we’ve reached whatever we wanted to reach. We are not there.
“We have four games to play, and we’ve just played two. That doesn’t mean anything. We should respect them.”