Somma another palooka?

2010-11-14 15:57

Is the 1998 World Cup saga about to reincarnate itself as far as embracing players with South African origins into the national team is concerned?

Remember how the then Bafana Bafana coach Phillipe Troussier drafted the likes of little-known Pierre Issa, Delron Buckley, Hans Vonk and Mark Arnold into the ­national team ahead of the locally based idols?

This prompted a famous headline “Who on earth are these palookas?”, and was met with mixed reactions from the public who accused City Press of being unpatriotic and ­destructive.

The inclusion this week of Davide Somma for the squad to take on USA in the Nelson Mandela Inauguration on Wednesday evokes the need to revisit this thorny issue.

Question is: Does it mean that anyone who plies his trade ­overseas is more qualified to don the Bafana jersey than home-based players?

Except for few exceptional individuals, South Africa has largely been unfortunate with unknown players who had never played at home before securing overseas moves. But the likes of Anele Ngcongca, Vonk and Buckley defied the odds and proved their worth in national colours.

Vonk and Buckley went on to earn 43 and 72 caps, respectively.

But, unfortunately, the same ­cannot be said about Issa, who is best remembered for his two own goals against France. Arnold also failed to shine.

South Africans will never know if Sean Dundee would have been the real deal had he honoured the Bafana call-up.

The former Karlsruher striker, who has dual citizenship of SA and Germany, faked injury when he was called up for Bafana and turned his back on his birth country as he wanted to play for Germany.

When he finally came back home to retire, he was nowhere near his best and his stay at AmaZulu was pathetic.

Now Leeds United striker Somma has a chance to show what he is made of and prove his critics wrong.

With Bafana firing blanks in front of goals, the 25-year-old has been touted as the next best thing for the team to solve their scoring ­problems. But is Somma the real deal or not?

Bafana mentor Pitso Mosimane this week cautioned against high ­expectations and pleaded with the public not to put too much pressure on Somma.

But rest assured, any little thing that will cast doubt on Somma’s abilities will be met with scepticism from the hard-to-please South African supporters.

Mosimane, himself, was not convinced, hence he has decided to call him so as to scrutinise him.

“We cannot just discard anyone who is available to play for us. He has made it clear that he wanted to play for South Africa and it is only fair that we give him a chance to prove himself but that does not mean we are going to judge him with one game,” said Mosimane.

Interestingly, Somma could make his debut against a country he could have opted to represent, USA, as he carries its citizenship.

He also holds an Italian passport which makes him eligible to play for the Azzurri.

Could this mean that he is not good enough to turn out for these two countries – ranked 25th and 16th respectively – hence his insistence on playing for his birth country which is ranked 52nd in the world?

Mosimane this week told of the importance of having local players competing at the highest level on the continent. He said with the local clubs finding it hard to conquer other African teams in CAF competitions, he would push to have his best players for the African Nations Championship tournament in ­Sudan next year.

With the tournament specifically reserved for local players, Mosimane said it did not make sense to select players who ordinarily would not enable Bafana to progress.

This has been the case with “Amabinneplaas”, players who were inactive at their clubs and were used for this tournament because of teams’ refusals to release their best players.

The event does not fall under the Fifa calendar and clubs are not obliged to release players. But Mosimane wants that to change that and says he has asked the PSL to facilitate a meeting with all the coaches so that he can share his vision.

But first, he has the USA to deal with on Wednesday in Cape Town.

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