'Exporting talent earlier can help SA players stay in Europe'

Van Heerden, Fish reckon our players are good enough

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Percy Tau enjoyed very little opportunity to prove himself at Brighton & Hove Albion in the English Premier League. He has since returned to Africa for Al Ahly.
Percy Tau enjoyed very little opportunity to prove himself at Brighton & Hove Albion in the English Premier League. He has since returned to Africa for Al Ahly.
Image: Mike Hewitt

The recent exit of Bafana Bafana star Percy Tau, 27, from Brighton & Hove Albion has induced many to think SA players aren’t good enough for Europe.

Barely a month after another local star, Keagan Dolly, 28, abandoned Europe to join Kaizer Chiefs, last Thursday Tau quit Brighton for African giants Al Ahly.

Dolly and Tau add to a long list of SA players who returned home when they were still expected to hold their own in Europe. After his contract wasn’t renewed, Amajita star Rowan Human, 20, left his Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv for Maritzburg United before the start of this season.

Seeing players from our neighbouring countries like Zimbabwean stars Marshall Munetsi and Tino Kaderwere at Reims and Lyon in France respectively surviving also casts doubt on SA players’ resilience and ambitions.

Retired Bafana left-winger Elrio van Heerden, who spent an amazing 11 years in Europe, doesn’t think his compatriots are not good enough, reasoning they return prematurely because they’re not exported on time. Van Heerden played in Denmark (Copenhagen), Belgium (Club Brugge) and Turkey (Sivasspor) and UK (Blackburn Rovers).

“Moving from SA to a different environment is demanding because you still have to adapt. Not everyone has that drive and passion, but it’s not a question of talent… our players are good enough. The rate of our players staying for a long time in Europe will increase if they go there at a younger age,’’ Van Heerden told Sowetan.

“When you have players going to Europe when they’re 25, 26 they’re already in the prime of their careers and at that time they can’t be patient... they want to play and at the same time they must adapt, so it clashes.

“I went to Europe when I was 18… even Steven Pienaar was very young when he went to Ajax… we had time to settle. Now our players go there at a later stage than before.”

Ex-Bafana defender Mark Fish who plied his trade in Europe between 1996 and 2005 for clubs like Lazio in Italy and Bolton Wanderers in the UK among others, also weighed in on this burning topic.

“The key thing is a foundation of a player. When I say foundation, I am talking about the character of the person. Talent wise, I think we’re not bad, so I won’t say we’re not good enough. It differs from a player to player,’’ Fish said.

Perhaps Zim and other players from our neighbours survive in Europe because they learn adapting when they play in the PSL and elsewhere away from their country, before earning big moves, while SA players go straight from the PSL to Europe.

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