Since claiming the Africa Cup of Nations title in 1996, South Africa has struggled to regain their top status as one of the best national teams on the continent.
At some stage, Bafana Bafana was ranked within the top 20 in the world, but have gone doom and gloom over the years with the decline of football in the country.
There is no doubt about the abundance of talent South Africa has at its disposal, but the grassroots development has dismally failed to take off. This has prompted parents to relocate overseas to fast-track their kids’ football development, which has seen them take great strides.
ThisIsFootball.Africa draws up a list of 10 young and exciting South African eligible players who are carving themselves out in some of Europe’s elite football leagues.
1. Josh Brooking – Chelsea FC (English Premier League)
Born in Reading, England to a South African father and an English mother, the 20-year-old defender has expressed his desire to play for South Africa even though he turned out for England at the under-16 level.
According to his agent, the Chelsea U21 right-back signed his first professional contract with the Blues in 2020 after joining them from Reading in 2019.
Brooking seems to have impressed Chelsea manager Graham Potter after he was included in the 25-man squad that will be traveling to Abu Dhabi for a training camp ahead of the English Premier League resumption later this month. It would be crazy for South Africa not to pick him for a full international soon.
2. Simon van Duivenbooden – Vitesse Arnhem (Dutch Eredivisie)
The 20-year-old has already taken Dutch football by storm after netting 17 goals in 23 appearances for the club’s Under 21 side, subsequently earning promotion to the senior team where he has already found the back of the net once in three outings this campaign.
Born in Uithoorn in the Netherlands to South African parents, Duivenbooden has already pledged to play for Bafana Bafana so much that he jetted into the country last week to enquire about the possibilities of a local passport which would make him eligible to represent the national team. The Vitesse player is another talent we have to cap soon before its to late.
3. Siyabonga Ligendza – A.F.C. Fylde (English National League)
The towering 19-year-old centre-forward was born in Leicester, England to Welsh and South African parents.
Ligendza is already commanding a regular starting berth at Fylde since joining them on loan from Cardiff City’s U21 side in September 2022 which has seen them register five straight wins.
He has thus far featured in eight matches scoring a single goal and will be looking to aid his team’s push for promotion to the EFL League Two next season.
4. Kgaogelo Chauke – Exeter City – on loan from Southampton (EFL League One)
The exciting young central midfielder was born in Pretoria before relocating overseas with his parents at a tender age.
“Kegs” is currently on loan at Exeter City from English Premier League outfit Southampton where he turns up for the B Team. He joined the club in 2020.
He is eligible to represent both Mzansi and England internationally.
There has been a ‘tug-of-war’ for the 19-year-old after he was named in England’s under-18 squad for a training camp in November 2020 shortly after penning a contract at St Marys. Early last year he was named in a 78-man preliminary squad to represent South Africa at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games but was excluded from the final squad of 22. South Africa does not have the luxury of not looking seriously at this youngster.
5. Ayanda Sishuba – RC Lens (French Ligue 1)
At just 17, the South African teenage sensation has been invited to train with French Ligue 1 side RC Lens’ senior squad having recently penned a long-term deal with the club.
Born in Belgium to a Belgian mom and a South African father, Sishuba was with Royal Excel Mouscron from an early age before 2020/21 French Ligue 1 champions LOSC Lille came calling. His stay there was cut short before Lens snapped him up on a five-year deal which will see him stay with the club until 2026.
He is the son of Cape Town-born Asanda Sishuba, who spent over 10 years playing his football overseas for the likes of Royal Antwerp and Sint-Truiden.
At this point, Ayanda is eligible to play for both countries. He has already been capped by Belgium at the Under 17 level and could be lost to overseas shores if the South African Football Association (SAFA) do not act fast in convincing him and his family to turn out for his father’s country of birth. SAFA need to get moving fast.
With these players having bright futures ahead of them, it remains to be seen if SAFA will eventually swoop in on them and get them to play for Mzansi instead of losing them to European countries.
Please stay tuned in for Part 2!
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