Bongani Zungu now facing Bafana uncertainty after Covid-19-related indiscretion at Glasgow Rangers
Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki has admitted that Bongani Zungu's Covid-19-related indiscretion that will see him out of game time at Glasgow Rangers could well prevent the key midfielder being called up to next month's crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Bafana host Ghana on March 22 and travel to Khartoum for their closing match on March 30‚ and the tight situation in Group C means South Africa may need to win both matches to reach the 2021 Nations Cup.
Ntseki said he and SA Football Association CEO Tebogo Motlanthe will contact Rangers for more information on Zungu's transgression.
The Bafana coach said he and Motlanthe had discussed the incident on Tuesday regarding Zungu being among five Rangers players having to isolate after police broke up a house party breaking Scottish Covid-19 restrictions.
The Bafana coach said after Rangers have explained the situation‚ Zungu will also be called to give his perspective. Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has said the on-loan player's actions have endangered his chances of securing a permanent move from France's Amiens.
"It is something where we can't commit ourselves until we have spoken to the club and spoken to the player‚" Ntseki said on Wednesday.
"I was in a meeting with the CEO [Motlanthe] [on Monday] actually addressing this matter. Because as of now we can't be seen to be commenting on it until we have spoken to the club to find out what actually happened. All that we have heard is just hearsay.
"So maybe by the end of business [on Wednesday] we will have spoken to the club. And then a follow-up will be made with the player."
Ntseki did admit Zungu's flouting of Covid-19 regulations is a concern from a Bafana perspective. "For now we are very worried about what actually happened‚ and how is that going to impact either negatively on him as a player‚ and also negatively on Bafana Bafana?" the coach said.
"Because the next Fifa week of March 21 to 30 is very important for us. Those are two crucial matches where we have to play to win to qualify. And we should have loved to have had every player in the country being available for selection."
Ntseki‚ who was the assistant-coach to Stuart Baxter at the 2019 Nations Cup finals in Egypt where Zungu was arguably Bafana's best player‚ is well aware of the midfielder's quality. Ntseki has also had personal experience of Zungu's errant ways‚ having had a fallout with the player soon after becoming head coach in late 2019‚ which resulted in Zungu not being selected in the early part of 2020.
The coach and player had mended their relationship‚ and Zungu produced a strong performance off the bench in SA's 2-0 Afcon qualifying win in Durban against Sao Tome and Principe in November last year‚ symbolically shaking Ntseki's hand after scoring.
"In incidents like this we should not be punitive and should try to get more information than we have‚ because we need each other for the success of the team‚ and also for individual success in their careers‚" Ntseki said.
Zungu had been struggling to adapt from the more expressive football of Ligue 1 to the Scottish Premier League's (SPL) renowned pace and physicality.
He has made 11 SPL substitutes' appearances and one start in Rangers' 30 games‚ having joined the Scottish giants on loan in October‚ two months into the 2020-21 SPL season.