CAPE TOWN – Former Senegal star El Hadji Diouf has urged South Africa’s top footballers to seek growth in their games by moving overseas instead of “staying comfortable” at home.
In recent seasons, a number of the leading lights in the PSL, such as Keagan Dolly and Lebogang Manyama, have remained in South Africa before leaving, while Itumeleng Khune and Siphiwe Tshabalala have been loyal to Kaizer Chiefs, and Percy Tau and Hlompho Kekana are still at Mamelodi Sundowns.
In fact, a number of SA overseas-based players have returned to Mzansi, such as Ayanda Patosi, Mark Mayambela, Anele Ngcongca, Tsepo Masilela and Bongani Khumalo, amongst others.
But perhaps that is the reason why Bafana Bafana have battled since hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup. They haven’t qualified for a major tournament since the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, missing out on the 2017 edition, while the 2002 World Cup was the last time they played their way into the game’s showpiece event.
They have again missed out on the 2018 edition in Russia.
Diouf never actually played professional football in his home country, having started out at French club Sochaux, before turning out for the likes of Liverpool, Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland in England.
Diouf played as a winger and striker, and also earned 70 caps for his national team from 2000 to 2008, where he scored 24 goals.
On a visit to Safa House this week as part of a Moroccan 2026 World Cup bid delegation, Diouf encouraged South Africa’s finest to push themselves to play abroad.
“I’m so happy to be here because if you talk about South African football, they have the most best team in this continent – like Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and now Sundowns… so many great players,” Diouf said in a video clip on the Safa Facebook page.
“But I ask of the young players to not think about themselves and stay home to be comfortable. South Africa and Africa need them to go abroad and play for the big teams, and come back here (for Bafana Bafana) to be like winners.
“I watched them play four times against Senegal, and you are playing the best football that I’ve ever seen in my life – but lack of experience.
“Players have to go out and get it because South Africa need it. And I don’t understand how come the players always want to play football here.”
Diouf recalled many of his South African adversaries as proof that Bafana Bafana can get back to being competitive at the highest level.
“I watch them play every week, Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and now Sundowns. Players have to go out and play abroad. You’ve got so many talents,” the 37-year-old said.
“I see the guy who scored the goal against Senegal (Percy Tau), he’s playing for Sundowns, very good footballer. And he has to leave this country and play for a good team, for (the sake of) South African football.
“Back in the day, South African football was very successful because you had some players playing for Leeds United, like Lucas Radebe. Benni McCarthy at Porto, Aaron Mokoena at Ajax.
“I want to say to the boys: You have talent, you have everything. But you have to go out and play for big teams because Safa need it.”