JOHANNESBURG – Kimberly-born centre-back Keith Groeneveld has spent the past 14 years in Belgium and found himself a second home, hence he now has to make a decision on the senior national team he’ll represent.
To compound the argument, he has already represented the Belgians at both youth and senior level in friendly matches, but that shouldn’t hinder his change of heart in future should he decide to be a Bafana Bafana player.
The Fifa rule states a player can change nationality on a condition he’s represented the previous country in only friendly matches at senior level or he’s spent more than five years in the current nation after turning 18.
The Standard Liege defender says his heart will tell him when it’s time to choose a nationality.
“I have not yet made a decision on which country that I want to present; we’ll have to see on what the future brings,” Groeneveld said.
“My heart will speak (on which country to represent). I can’t tell you as yet, but we’ll see.
“But I can tell you that every time I come back here to South Africa, it feels like coming home. The people, environment and everything in general feels like coming home.”
Groeneveld is likely to make his debut for the South Africa’s Under-20 team – Amajita – next Saturday, May 12, in their away encounter to Mozambique in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers at Campo de Ferroviario, Beira.
He’s the only overseas-based player who honoured the Amajita call-up, although in the recent training camp he was joined by England-based players Siphesihle Mdlalose (Southampton) and Tyrique Bartlett (Newcastle United, and son of Bafana legend Shaun).
Groeneveld’s national future might be uncertain, but he says donning the national jersey will be something special.
“It is always wonderful playing for my country, just having this badge on my chest is something special,” he said.
“What I like about the local football is that there is a free-flow; while in Europe the referees blow the whistle more often. Also, where I come from there is physicality but here they kick more.”
The 17-year-old might be yet to make a name for himself locally, but he’s had a taste of some of the best Western-football in his life after trying out at English giants Manchester United and Arsenal.
He’s currently in his second season of his three-year deal at Liege, where he’s a regular with the Under-21s.
However, the lanky footballer acknowledges that for his growth he has to be play with more experienced lads.
“My goal for next season is getting game-time in the first team,” he said.
“The first team is where I’ll make most of my progress because I’ll be playing with players who are experienced, and I’ll be able to learn.’’