NO, not all European footballers in the PSL are “plumbers”.
Mamelodi Sundowns’ new Slovakian signing Pavol Šafranko is one of the most interesting signings made in recent history by a Premier Soccer League (PSL) club.
Since the inception of the PSL, several European footballers have played in it.
Many of those from Europe who grace the PSL are mocked as being “plumbers” due to having less than impressive CVs prior to their arrival here. Critics of the European players who play in the PSL are usually vindicated because very rarely do they actually have a strong impact in the league.
After one or two usually unspectacular seasons, they usually fade into oblivion and are never spoken about again.
The few European players that played in the PSL who were capped internationally, such as former Portugal international Luis Boa Morte and Dutch goalie Sander Westerveld, did so at the tail end of their careers when they virtually already had no chance of playing internationally again.
The former Liverpool goalie Westerveld did have a modest two-year spell with Ajax Cape Town prior to hanging up his gloves but Boa Morte’s short-lived spell with Orlando Pirates is best forgotten and was an absolute disaster.
Based on Boa Morte’s work rate for the Sea Robbers, it would have been impossible to guess that he was a player who once donned the shirt of Arsenal, West Ham, Fulham, and Southampton in his heyday.
Meanwhile, 26-year-old Šafranko has joined Sundowns in the prime of his career when he is an active Slovakia national team player with 10 caps to his name.
The 38th-ranked Slovaks may not be among the so-called elite nations in world football but they are a nation that can give the “elites” a run for their money on a good day with the likes of captain Marek Hamšík and Inter Milan’s Milan Škriniar in the team.
It remains to be seen if Šafranko will fully adapt to life at Masandawana and be a success at the club. His performances have so far been mixed. He is a player who could very easily have opted to stay in Europe and even played in respected leagues. Instead, he opted to come to South Africa and join Sundowns.
Another player in recent times who very likely joined the PSL ahead of potential options in Europe is former Cape Town City goalie Peter Leeuwenburgh. Leeuwenburgh joined the Citizens as a 24-year-old in 2018 and was a highly-rated product at Ajax Amsterdam, even representing the Netherlands at U17, U19, and U20 levels.
Leeuwenburgh may have not really managed to establish himself in the first team of Ajax but his impressive youth CV in the Netherlands would have surely earned him offers in Europe. Instead, he opted to develop his career at Cape Town City.
Given that he stayed with the Western Cape club for an extended spell, some speculated that he could eventually declare interest for Bafana Bafana but he has since returned to his homeland with FC Groningen with a view to breaking into the Netherlands first team.