Percy Tau was one of the star performers for Bafana Bafana for AFCON. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
The teammate Percy Tau has never had would like to see him play in a more competitive and glamorous league instead of Belgium’s second division.

Tau’s inability to meet the requirements to get a work permit in England, to play Premier League football with Brighton & Hove Albion, forced him to go on loan at Royale Union Saint-Gilloise.

The chairman of Brighton is also the majority shareholder of Saint-Gilloise which paved the way for Tau to join the Belgian side.

Tau made the most of that demotion. He was named the best player in the league after stealing the show in only his first season in Europe.

But it’s a travesty that one of the continent’s best players is languishing in Belgium’s second tier.

There are attempts to get him a better league and better club in the upcoming season as he still doesn’t meet the criteria to play for Brighton and call Nigerian centre-back Leon Balogun his teammate.

The two came up against each other in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). Balogun finished the night the happier of the two thanks to the Super Eagles beating Bafana Bafana 2-1.

Tau was the last South African player to leave the pitch that night. He was dejected at not having made it past the last eight, but mainly he was disappointed at not playing his best football in a tournament that was a good opportunity to market himself away from Belgium’s second division.

“I told him after we beat them in the quarter-finals that he is a great player and he shouldn’t take this loss too serious,” Balogun said.

“I just hope for him, his future and his development that he will get a chance to make a move from the second league in Belgium and to play in a higher league and prove to more people that he is an amazing talent.”

The Super Eagles’ run in the Afcon ended after the win over South Africa. Algeria were their last roadblock, beating them 2-1 in the semi-finals and relegating Nigeria to the third-place play-off.

Balogun and company dusted themselves off and won the bronze medal, giving Nigeria their eighth third-place finish in the Afcon.

“First of all I am happy that we won the bronze medal, we aren’t going to go home empty-handed,” Balogun said.

“Secondly, I think that we have to be honest with ourselves, when we played Algeria in the semi-finals, they were better over the majority of time.

“They were one of the best teams in the tournament, like Senegal. Both teams deserved to be in the final. It’s not bad to come third, behind those two. It’s not bad.”

Nigeria achieved this third place finish with a squad that had 20 out of 23 players who were playing in the Afcon for the first time since missing out on the 2015 and 2017 tournaments.

They also had the third-youngest team in the tournament which shows that the future is bright. That future - the road to Cameroon 2021 - will see them having to negotiate their way past Benin, Sierra Leone and Lesotho in Group L of the qualifiers.

The draw to decide those groups was held in Cairo, a day after Nigeria beat Tunisia in the third-place play-off.

“That tells you about the potential that’s still there,” Balogun said.

“I have been asked by your colleagues, ‘what do you think this team is capable of in the next Afcon and the next World Cup?’

“There’s still some time before that, but I think that we have a great team with a lot of potential and ambition.

“We just need to keep building that, keep this team together and hopefully we will be more successful in the next tournament.”

Malik Said 

Saturday Star