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Bafana’s football evolution is clear

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The six players are part of the Bafana Bafana squad that will take on Zambia on Saturday in an international friendly.

Picture: Muzi Ntombela BackpagePix

LEBOGANG Phiri (pictured) believes that the evolution South African football has undergone is the reason why there is a growing number of the country’s footballers’ plying their trade in Europe, especially in France.

Phiri, Bongani Zungu, Keagan Dolly and Lebo Mothiba are flying South Africa’s flag in France while Percy Tau, who is on the books of English side Brighton Hove & Albion, will be playing Uefa Champions League football with Belgium’s Club Brugge where he is on loan. Kamohelo Mokotjo is plying his trade in England’s Championship. The six players are part of the Bafana Bafana squad that will take on Zambia on Saturday in an international friendly.

The match will be coach Molefi Ntseki’s first as Bafana coach.

“As a country we have evolved, our football has evolved,” Phiri said. “We have players who are very tactical and technicians as well. There is a broader group to select from in terms of quality in the country. Of course in Europe it’s always been about a more physical build. When you’re South African, there would be ‘he isn’t big enough, he isn’t strong enough and he isn’t fast enough’.

“But now with us evolving in our football, there’s more intelligence in our play. So, that’s why you get a lot of players playing abroad, not just in France, you get players in Portugal and England as well with the small physical stature but doing well nonetheless.”

The French league hasn’t been that friendly to Phiri. His club Guingamp was relegated to Ligue 2. To compound matters, he missed out on going to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) with Bafana.

“I like to play at the highest level,” Phiri said. “I have played at Ligue 1 level and I have played against big names. Playing at Ligue 1 was an exceptional time of my career. Going to Ligue 2, of course it’s a bummer for me. I have always wanted to play at the highest level.”

Phiri has an opportunity to make up for lost time by helping Bafana start Ntseki’s tenure with a win over Zambia. 2021 Afcon qualifiers against Ghana and Sudan in November will follow after this friendly. There’s a positive vibe in Bafana of recent, with a belief that they can hold their own against the best on the continent as well as pride in donning the green and gold.

“We all have ambitions as individuals,” Phiri said. “Whether you play in Europe or you play locally, you should always put the national team ahead because this is a country that has fed you.

“You never turn your back on a country that’s fed you, the people who have given you the opportunity to be visible abroad.

“When we come here, we come to represent the country, give our best and hopefully we can come out with a good victory.”