When the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers start next year, Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki insisted he will stay the course and focus on SA-born players.
MAMELODI Sundowns star midfielder Gaston Sirino and Kaizer Chiefs talisman Samir Nurkovic are eligible to represent Bafana Bafana, even though they are not South African born players, but Molefi Ntseki is not going to consider the duo for now.
Nurkovic recently declared himself available for Bafana, while Pitso Mosimane has been pushing Sirino for national duty.
The Serbian born hitman, Nurkovic, has brought a breath of fresh air to Naturena for the Amakhosi this season with his finishing prowess, while Sirino – born and bred in Uruguay – has been a vital cog for the Brazilians for the past two seasons with his silky skills and deft touches.
Both Sirino and Nurkovic are yet to don the jerseys of their national teams at senior and junior level, making them eligible for Bafana Bafana but Ntseki is firmly focused on South African-born players for now.
“The attention that we are giving is to profile South African players,” said Ntseki.
“We must be very careful. Let me make an example about Sirino and Nurkovic. Are we giving enough attention to what we have before we can move for a player that has to be neutralised? Are we comparing that player with what we have in the country and giving opportunities to what we have in the country?
“If you go to the junior teams, all the junior teams have given our players an opportunity to play for their country. That’s why most of them today are playing overseas. I’m talking about the likes of Lyle Foster, Gift Links, Kabomelo Kodisang, Liam Jordan and Luther Singh.
“These are players that played for our junior teams and they are now in the overseas market,” Ntseki added.
Cricket and Rugby have converted non-South African players into their national squads in the past, perhaps most famously 2019 World Cup-winning Springbok Beast Mtawarira.
“If we don’t have anybody who can be of a level of the second player, it means we will always be looking into that player,” Ntseki continued.
“Let’s say we approach a (naturalised) player and we say we are interested in him playing for our country but that has to be done in such a way that the player will be protected and the coach will also be protected. What will happen if that player doesn’t have a good first game or second game? People will start to say all the negative things about that player.
“We need to do it properly,” he cautioned.
Competition for places especially in the midfield is stiff for Bafana, which does raise questions about Sirino.
“For me, it is a very long process that has to be done properly without emotions but we should be highly tactical and technical to decide on such players.
“It might not be Ntseki alone doing this but it has to be done in a right manner,” Ntseki said.
When the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers start next year, Ntseki insisted he will stay the course and focus on SA-born players.
Said the coach: “Let us make an example of Rushine de Reuck. He was born (in South Africa) in 1996 … and then there is someone like Ricardo Nascimento (who is Brazilian) from Sundowns.
“Nascimento is older than Rushine. If you were to overlook Rushine, who are you disadvantaging? People will say instead of helping in development of football and selecting Rushine, you’ve decided to convert a non-South African to be a South African.
“That is the reality of the situation and that’s why I say we should not be emotional about it.” Ntseki concluded.