Defender back with a mission

2008-09-03 00:00

PORT ELIZABETH — Matthew Booth has promised he will not let his country down if he gets his big chance to shine for Bafana Bafana against Nigeria when the countries clash in what is Bafana’s most important game for over a decade.

Bafana have to win this 2010 African Nations Cup Group Four clash against the group leaders to stand any chance of reaching the next qualifying round for the 2010 showpiece in Angola.

Said the lanky former SA under-23 skipper and hard-as-nails central defender: “I am delighted to be back in the Bafana squad after an absence of about five years. I have always been available and will try to prove myself against Nigeria if given a run by the coach. I am fully fit and keen to play. I believe in my ability and I am up for the challenge.”

Booth is captain of his Russian club Krylya Sovetov. It is strange that various Bafana head coaches have overlooked him over the past few years.

“It is unusual for a foreigner to captain a Russian side,” said Booth.

“But I was delighted to have been given that honour. Things are going well for me in Russia. We are currently fifth in the table and pushing for a place in the Uefa Cup next season.”

Booth is one of two players coach Joel Santana has brought in as cover for the suspended Aaron Mokoena. The other is Mamelodi Sundowns’ Mbulelo “OJ” Mabizela.

“It is great being back and in contention to play for Bafana again,” said Booth. He reckons Bafana have a psychological edge.

“The fact Nigeria have already won the group could work in our favour, but Nigeria are a proud country and hate losing.”

He said Nigeria has more depth that South Africa: “Nigeria did brilliantly by getting to the Olympic Games final against Argentina (Nigeria lost 1-0) and that shows they have a lot of good players coming through that we don’t have.”

Booth, who has played against Nigerian club sides for Mamelodi Sundowns in the African Champions League, knows what to expect from the Super Eagles.

“They are competitive as club sides and although I have never played against Nigeria — even at national under-23 level — I know them by reputation. They will be tough to beat. But the spirit at training here has been great. I missed playing for my country and look forward to helping, in any way, Bafana collecting three points and keeping our hopes alive of playing in the Nations Cup in Angola in 2010.” — Sapa.

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