WATCH: SA’s Premier League star Lyle Foster, the ‘Son of Soweto’, is feeling right at home at Orlando Stadium

Lyle Fosters celebrates after scoring for Bafana Bafana

Lyle Foster feels quite at home with Bafana Bafana at Orlando Stadium. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Published Sep 12, 2023


Lyle Foster may be living in Manchester playing in one of the richest football leagues in the world, but he always gets shivers down his spine when he walks through the gates at Orlando Stadium.

And this evening, it will be no different for the Burnley striker when he leads Bafana Bafana’s front-line against the Democratic Republic of Congo in an international friendly (5pm kickoff).

Foster is a son of Soweto’s soil, having grown up close by to the home of Orlando Pirates, and also having started his senior professional career at the Buccaneers.

He then left for foreign shores that has taken him to France (Monaco), Belgium (Cercle Brugge and Westerlo), Portugal (Vitoria de Guimaraes) and now to the Premier League.

“It’s home. It’s the stadium I have tattooed on my body. I am from Noordgesig ... it’s like 2km from the stadium. We used to walk here to come and watch Pirates play,” Foster said.

“My father, my uncles, all our family are Pirates supporters. To be able to play here was a great honour for me. It’s my neighbourhood club. The only time I scored for the country in South Africa was also here!”

While Foster may have lived nearby, the journey to playing professional football at this legacy-filled stadium was a road littered with potholes.

That was certainly the case when his father Lance gave up his job to focus solely on supporting his teenage son to fulfil his dream.

It was a selfless decision which undoubtedly put the entire family under pressure due to his mom, Tarryn, being the sole breadwinner.

“My dad quit his job to make sure I could chase this dream I’ve had since I was young. He sacrificed, as well as my mother. Both of them did a lot for me. My mother still had to work while my dad was driving me around. It was the perfect relationship. They are my biggest support structure,” Foster said.

“Whenever I feel things aren’t going my way, and when they are, they are the first people I try to contact. My parents are the reason I am here, and I will be eternally grateful.”

Foster is also unlike most professional footballers. Despite being the most expensive home-grown footballer ever, following a whopping €11million (about R231m) transfer fee from Westerlo in Belgium to Burnley – which eclipsed his boyhood hero Benni McCarthy’s fee record of €6m (then around R39m) in 1999 from Dutch giants Ajax to join Spanish side Celta Vigo – he remains incredibly humble.

An indication of Foster’s humility was on full display ahead of yesterday’s press conference when he assisted the Bafana media liaison Romy Titus in putting up the marketing backdrops.

And this was from a player who had just scored goals against Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur.

Foster’s attitude is based on his solid home grounding, but also seeking out Bafana legends such as McCarthy and Steven Pienaar for advice on how to survive at the highest level.

“I always have had good people in my life – my parents, sisters, coaches. They have imprinted in me to stay grounded. God forbid, I could break my leg tomorrow. It’s a blessing to be here,” he said.

“Growing up, Steven Pienaar helped me a lot, playing in his tournaments. Just before I went over, he invited me to his place and gave me some game on what to expect going to Europe.”

Returning to Orlando Stadium today, Foster will also be reuniting with his longtime friend Thabiso Monyane against the DRC.

Foster and the Pirates fullback share a special bond, and the striker is ecstatic that they can now both wear the Bafana jersey together.

“We have played together since we were 12. He is super fast. He had the choice to do athletics. He was one of South Africa’s fastest sprinters in our age group. (Augusto) Palacios brought him to play football,” Foster said.

“Thabiso lived by my house for a year. We slept in the same bed, went to the same school. Being able to represent the country together is super special for the both of us. Just happy we are here and able to join the moment together.”

Foster is only 23-years-old, but he has the footballing world at his feet, while he carries the hopes of restoring glory to an under-performing Bafana team.

But with his attitude and talent, he could just be the answer to South Africa’s prayers.