Ntseki: Rangers are playing Bongani Zungu‚ so Bafana have no problem picking him

Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki.
Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki.
Image: Gallo Images

Bongani Zungu has been cleared to play‚ and even made two substitute’s appearances‚ for his club Rangers since his Covid-19 regulation transgression in Scotland‚ so there was no reason not to pick the midfielder for Bafana Bafana‚ national coach Molefi Ntseki has clarified.

The only factor Ntseki might have had to weigh was Zungu’s two-week inactivity due to having to isolate after he was among five Rangers players caught at a late-night house gathering in Glasgow in contravention of Scottish Covid-19 regulations last month. This means he has played only around a combined 15 minutes in two substitutes’ appearances in a month.

Zungu’s two appearances off the bench – in Rangers’ 5-1 Europa League win against Antwerp in the 82nd minute and then in injury time of Wednesday night’s 1-0 Premier League victory against Livingstone – along with his huge experience and undoubted class‚ were enough to sway Ntseki.

Zungu was key in South Africa’s Nations Cup Group C wins against Sao Tome in November‚ and is likely to be again in the final two fixtures against Ghana at FNB Stadium on March 25 and Sudan in Khartoum on March 28.

And in a squad decimated by injuries‚ Ntseki could not afford to leave the player out‚ even if he’s bound to be a little match rusty.

“I said some time ago that we were waiting for the club to decide what should happen with the situation with Bongani‚” Ntseki explained.

“The unfortunate part of it is that Bongani is a national team player‚ and there is so much attention that will be given to him if he misbehaves wherever he is playing – so we understand that one.

“But we always respect the independence of the club in dealing with a situation at club level. I met with the CEO [of Safa‚ Tebogo Motlanthe]‚ we spoke about it and said‚ ‘Let’s wait for the club to give their verdict before we decide how we are going to handle this matter’.

“The club [Rangers] then had a DC with Bongani and the rest of the guys‚ and they dealt with it in the way that they did‚ and Bongani was put in to play in that Europa League game.

“So when it comes to us and the players and the clubs – if ever a player is found on the wrong side of the law at national team level‚ that player will be dealt with by the national team. And when that player goes back to his club‚ the club is not going to mete out any form of punishment based on what happened in the national team.

“We respect the independence of the club‚ but at the same time if this is a national team player we need to address such issues. And what we did was to speak to Bongani after the DC‚ and he explained to us what happened‚ and he sent me an apology about what happened.

“And we are looking forward to having Bongani in the team‚ and hopefully he should have learned from this.

“He had something like this on his [social media] profile: ‘People are building walls to block your path’. And I said to him‚ ‘The only person who can build a wall to block your path is Bongani Zungu‚ and you must start breaking those walls‚ and making use of those pieces to move forward in your career’.

“And we are looking at him coming into the national team‚ after he has broken those walls‚ to help the team qualify‚ and to play for his country.”

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard also clearly seems intent on throwing Zungu a lifeline by getting him back into first team action‚ after speculation last month’s transgression might have put the on-loan player from Amiens’ future at doubt at the Gers.

Rangers have censured the five players‚ but not with suspensions from playing and three other transgressors were on the bench against Antwerp.

Bafana are second on nine points in Group C on goal difference from Ghana‚ and Sudan third on six points.