Bigger stage awaits SA’s rising young talent

HUGO Broos and Helman Mkhalele. BackpagePix

HUGO Broos and Helman Mkhalele. BackpagePix

Published Jun 18, 2024




BAFANA Bafana's glowing 2026 World Cup fortunes have encouraged PSL clubs to make their exciting prospects available for the upcoming Cosafa Cup in Gqeberha.

Over the past few seasons, there has been a never-ending club-versus-country antagonism between PSL clubs and Safa, the guardians of the national team.

Last season was a classic case in point. Out of the 47 players stand-in coach Morena Ramoreboli called up for a Cosafa Cup camp, 19 actually reported.

In the absence of comment from Safa and PSL clubs, an informant inside the camp said at the time: “PSL teams have refused to let their players join the team. It’s players from the lower divisions that are here.”

Cosafa Cup coach Helman Mkhalele has announced a preliminary squad for the southern African regional tournament, and there has been no outcry. It bodes well for his announcement of the final squad later this week.

Many of the players in the preliminary squad were on the fringe of Bafana selection, while others have a few national team caps under their belts. It all points to a potent selection in the making for the Cosafa Cup.

In recent years, South Africa has been the tournament host, and it would have been to Bafana Bafana’s advantage because they did not have to travel. They could enjoy home comforts.

However, these advantages did not deter local clubs, and they cold-shouldered any efforts by Safa to call their players up for national team duty. Now the winds of change are blowing on national football’s landscape, and there may be several reasons for that.

After four rounds of World Cup qualifiers, Bafana are well-placed to close out their Group C 10-match African qualifying campaign on a victorious note by topping the standings. South Africa’s biggest Group C rivals Nigeria are at an all-time low and have yet to win a match after four rounds.

A few days ago, the celebrated Finidi George resigned as coach of the Nigerian Super Eagles, and it will be left to his replacement to pick up the pieces.

Another reason for the change of heart by PSL clubs is that they realise their players’ value could increase if their talents are showcased on the global stage that the World Cup offers. That could translate to handsome dividends when players are in demand at transfer time.

There may be a more mature outlook from clubs who have been playing many young talents in their Premiership sides.

Some coaches had admitted that they could not field their rising talents as often as they liked because established players are the backbone of the team.

The Cosafa Cup will be an ideal opportunity to give these young talents a taste of international competition.

Rival countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe often call up their first-choice players rather than field up-and-coming talents.

It ensures that South Africans will again be competitive opponents and this will help to bring the best out of the teenage talents.

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