JOHANNESBURG – Andile Jali is his own worst enemy when you consider all the negative publicity around his off the field behaviour over the last five months.
I have watched the now 28-year-old build his career from the bottom up, starting out at University of Pretoria a little over a decade ago all the way to earning his big move to KV Oostende in Belgium.
We can argue until the cows come home about whether returning to the Premier Soccer League to join Mamelodi Sundowns at the beginning of this season was a step back (personally I think he regressed), but what shouldn’t be up for debate is that he is national team material any day, every day.
But when he’s not on the pitch, Jali is up to no good.
He reportedly spent Monday night in jail for apparently assaulting his wife - a day after putting on a stellar performance for the Brazilians in their 1-0 Absa Premiership victory over Chippa United in the Eastern Cape, his home province.
Not long after he mutually terminated his Oostende contract in January this year, the midfielder was busted for drunk driving while he was still looking for a club.
At his club, coach Pitso Mosimane might be able to keep a close eye on him and play the football politics - like at the weekend when he started him against Chippa, praised him for his leadership qualities following his Man of the Match performance, while knowing fully that a Sunday tabloid was going to run a piece on Jali’s ill-discipline.
Bafana mentor Stuart Baxter is unlikely to recall Jali to the national team ahead of next month’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria at FNB Stadium, where victory will send South Africa to the continental tournament.
With Bongani Zungu and Keagan Dolly injured - and now joined by Dean Furman - few would have argued against Jali being the perfect candidate to fill the gaps for the Nigeria clash on November 17.
Jali can play the Furman role, protecting the back four while trying to give Bafana the attacking impetus. And he can be deployed behind the strikers, similar to how Baxter used him in that 3-1 win over Burkina Faso in the World Cup qualifiers last year at the same FNB Stadium.
It would be a huge surprise now if he’s named in that national team squad in the coming weeks after these off the field antics. It’s a real pity. Jali would be immense for Bafana against an improving Super Eagles team fresh off the World Cup in Russia.