Masango against foreign-born stars in Bafana Bafana

Ex-Chiefs man questions the players’ quality

15 June 2023 - 08:48
By Sihle Ndebele
Mandla Masango.
Image: Lefty Shivambu Mandla Masango.

Mandla Masango, who was a key player in coach Shakes Mashaba’s Bafana Bafana between 2014 and 2016, is against the idea of naturalising foreign PSL stars to play for SA, reasoning if they are good enough they should be playing for their native countries.

The debate whether SA must consider adopting foreign players, who are taking the PSL by storm has been raging for a while. The resurgence of Mamelodi Sundowns-bound Argentinian international Junior Mendieta at Stellenbosch in the just-ended campaign rekindled this war of words around the naturalisation of non-South Africans to play for Bafana. 

A few months ago, Sundowns’ Gaston Sirino, who’s from Uruguay, made his desire to play for Bafana known. His Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena was one of the people who supported Sirino’s wish. “If he has the thing [papers] and everything possible, I think he can add value, of course. Fortunately, I don’t select the national team,” Mokwena said at the time.

Masango, who boasts 22 Bafana appearances with two goals and three assists, is convinced that SA has enough native talent to resort to the route of recruiting foreign-born players for the national team. The ex-Kaizer Chiefs man also questioned these players’ quality as they are usually not considered in their native countries, making Sundowns’ Chilean ace Marcelo Allende and Sirino his examples, while reprimanding the media for putting shining local players under pressure too soon.

“My feeling is that we have enough local players. If, for instance Allende was good enough, he would be playing for his national team [in fact he has one cap for Chile senior team]. If Sirino was good enough he would be playing for his national team. We just need to give our local players confidence and space to grow,” Masango said.

“We must not put players under pressure, especially you [referring to the journalists] guys. A player scores one goal and the next thing you are overhyping him, give him a space to grow. For example, you have [Cassius] Mailula, a very good player, but he’s not a complete player… he needs to develop as this was his first season. So don’t put him under pressure. I know it’s your job but sometimes you guys do a lot more harm than good.”