HAVING just returned from Rio where he was with the South Africa U23 team, Maritzburg United’s Deolin Mekoa was named in Shakes Mashaba’s Bafana Bafana squad for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Mauritania in two weeks’ time.
The midfielder was an integral member of Ernst Middendorp’s United squad that beat the drop on the final day of the season, and his form was rewarded with a place in the Olympic team.
Now, having done well at the Olympics, where they frustrated Neymar’s Brazil, Mekoa will take his bow for the senior national team.
The 23-year-old has seen a meteoric rise to his career since being plucked from relative obscurity by United two years ago, and it’s believed the in-demand Durban-born player, currently seen as one of the up-and-coming stars in the Premier League, will be plying his trade for one of the Premier Soccer League big boys after this coming season.
Club chairperson Farook Kadodia said Mekoa’s national team call-up was a proud moment for the club.
“He’s come on in leaps and bounds. This is a very proud moment for the fans and the club,” Kadodia said.
“Going forward, we’d like Deolin to become a role model for the upcoming youngsters.”
Bafana Bafana will also take on Egypt in a Nelson Mandela Challenge at Orlando Stadium on September 6.
Along with Mekoa, Mashaba also added Abbubaker Mobara and Maphosa Modiba, who were also part of the U23 squad in Rio.
“It has been very difficult trying to pick the team because most of the players are still busy with pre-season and only a handful have matches under their belts,” Mashaba said in a Safa statement yesterday.
“We had to rely mainly on what the players can do from past experiences. It was a tough call, but we had to do it. Fortunately, some clubs have been playing in pre-season cup competitions, which is very encouraging.”
Bafana Bafana can no longer qualify for the continental showpiece in Gabon next year, so the game against Mauritania will be used to prepare the side for their opening 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, which begins in October against Burkina Faso.
“When it comes to the national team, there is no match that doesn’t serve a purpose. We are fortunate we have two back-to-back matches that will assist us in helping prepare for the all-important start of the 2016 Fifa World Cup Russia qualifiers where we are away to Burkina Faso … a month after we play Russia,” said Mashaba.