Delron Buckley has become the latest of the SA internationals winding down their careers at home by joining Maritzburg United on Tuesday. Buckley was among three new players unveiled by the club, the others being former Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Mthokozisi Yende and Orlando Smeekes, a 31-year-old Dutch-born striker who plays internationally for Curacao, an island in the Netherlands Antilles.
While it will be the first time Buckley plays in the local professional league, the 34-year-old midfielder-cum-striker follows in the footsteps of a number of former Bafana Bafana players who returned home from Europe.
And Buckley, once a key member of the senior national team, will be hoping he emulates most of his former Bafana teammates who came back from Europe and showed they’d gained vast experience with performances that helped their local teams.
Just last season Benni McCarthy returned home and played a crucial role in helping Orlando Pirates win the treble, the country’s all-time leading scorer even winning the Goal of the Season award.
Another former Bafana striker who has shone brightly upon returning home is Siyabonga Nomvethe, who won just about every award on offer at the end-of-season Premier Soccer League (PSL) function, having been the key to Moroka Swallows finishing a close second to the Buccaneers in the Premiership.
Last season also saw Sibusiso Zuma shine for SuperSport United, having also done so for relegated Vasco da Gama the season before to make up for the initial disastrous attempt at a comeback with Mamelodi Sundowns in 2008.
Before them, the likes of Shoes Moshoeu and Shaun Bartlett (picture inset) traded the cold of Europe for home warmth with incredible success and it was perhaps they who encouraged other Premiership clubs to lure locals back home.
Yet not all former Bafana stars who returned from overseas have been successful, with Nasief Morris perhaps the biggest disappointment. The defender, who played for a long time in Greece before going to the highly competitive La Liga in Spain, joined SuperSport last season with high expectations. But he struggled with the pace of the younger players in the league and Gavin Hunt quickly shipped him back to Santos where Morris started his professional career. He is currently in a promotional play-off battle attempting to help the People’s Team keep their elite league status.
As the new season stars, local fans will be keen to see whether Buckley – who has signed a two-year contract with the Team of Choice – and Kaizer Chiefs’ Siboniso Gaxa, a Bafana defender returning from Belgium, will add their European experience to the PSL.
Until now Buckley had spent his career in Germany, with spells in Switzerland and Cyprus. Earlier he was linked to AmaZulu but nothing materialised. His arrival at Maritzburg reunites him with the club’s German coach Ernst Middendorp, under whom he played in Germany and more recently at Anorthosis Famagusta in Cyprus.
Middendorp emphasised the need to bring in experienced professionals like Buckley. “It’s a great pleasure, an honour and an opportunity to work with him. I don’t need to explain the details of his career so far. In terms of bringing his experience to the field it’s fantastic, not only for the club, but for the league.” – The Mercury