Portugal home from home for SA players

Luther Singh is playing for Moreirense in the Primeira Liga in Portugal, on loan from Sporting Braga.
Luther Singh is playing for Moreirense in the Primeira Liga in Portugal, on loan from Sporting Braga.
Image: Philip Maeta

Very few people may be aware that Portugal has established itself as a home for SA footballers. SA has more players in the southern European country than anywhere else abroad, with 21 from the top and lower divisions.

There are four SA players in England's lower leagues, as well as the same number in Holland and France. That is a drop in the ocean compared to Portugal.

So why are SA players finding a home in Portugal?

To get the answers, Sowetan had a chat with talent scout Farouk Khan of Stars of Africa Academy.

Khan's latest player to move to Portugal is striker Patrick Maswanganyi, who has penned a deal with second division side UD Oliveirense.

Stars of Africa academy products like Tokelo Rantie and May Mahlangu - who both went on to play for Bafana Bafana, were previously sent to Sweden. It's not that Khan preferred the Scandinavian country over the others, but it's about who offers the players the opportunity.

As a result, Khan has also over time established contacts in Portugal.

He's not the only one with contacts there, however. KwaZulu-Natal football academy has for the past few years been sending players over to Portugal, home to one of the world's greatest ever players, Cristiano Ronaldo.

SA international Luther Singh, also a product of Stars of Africa, plies his trade for Moreirense in the top division.

Khan explained that Portuguese clubs are in the business of selling players. This is why they look for talent all over the world with the primary objective being to cash in later on.

"[The influx of SA players to Portugal] is that they are a selling country. In other words, the clubs look to sell players. They sign a lot of Brazilians too and from elsewhere," Khan said.

SA's Bongani Zungu was with Vitória de Guimarães before his switch to French side, Amiens.

"In Portugal, football [development] is business and that is why they are constantly looking for talent. it's something, we as South Africans, need to do."

In terms of the style of play, Khan reckons it's a good environment for SA's emerging talent, especially, to be scouted by the Portuguese clubs.

"The football there is very similar to ours. It's more skill than the physical side of it. they are looking for skilful players.

"It's good to have moved Patrick [Maswanganyi, 21] there. you are going to hear more about him soon."

Khan insisted that SA should follow the same route and scout for talent, even on the continent, with the view to selling them on.

"In terms of football, we are still a café and they are already a hypermarket. Honestly, no disrespect [to SA clubs].

"Benfica, for example, have a university on their premises. They have townhouses for their players [in the same area] and they have more than 15 soccer fields.

They are separated by a river, because they don't want the media to see them train. There is so much more.

"I'm saying for you to succeed in football you've got to invest so that you can eventually benefit from it," he said.

"We [SA] need to start taking football seriously, because it's the number one sport for the majority of our people in the country.

"What the PSL has done under the chairmanship of Irvin Khoza is phenomenal, but you can't expect him now to be developing your players.

"You can't expect him to be raising the profile of your club, you understand. He's given you the stage."

SA PLAYERS IN PORTUGAL

Primeira Liga

Thibang Phete - Famalicao

Sibusiso Thibane - Vitoria Setubal

Kaogelo Sekgota - Vitoria Setubal

Nkanyiso Shinga - Vitoria Setubal

Luther Singh - Moreirense (on loan from Sporting Braga)

Segunda division

Sergio Marakis - Cova da Piedade

Thabo Cele - Cova da Piedade

Mihlali Mayambela - Farense

Patrick Maswanganyi - UD Oliveirense

Lower divisions

Kobamelo Kodisang - Sporting Braga B

Zinto Cwele - Associacao Naval

Kamogelo Mlonzi - Associacao Naval

Tshepo Dichabe - Associacao Naval

Edson Khumalo - Sanjoanense

Cole Colbert - Fazendese

Philani Jaca - CD Pinhalnovense U19

Michael Habib - Moura Atletico Clube

Lehlogonolo Matlou - AD Sanjoanense

Simo Mbhele - Sertanense

Mhleli Mabuza - Lusitano GC Évora

Swelihle Mthiyane - Lusitano GC Évora

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