- Former SuperSport United midfielder Dean Furman talks about his decision to call time on his career in South Africa and returning to live and play in the UK after five years away.
- The ex-Bafana Bafana captain reveals whether he still harbours ambitions to represent the national team and what he makes of the current crop of young talent rising up the ranks.
- He also selects who he rates as the top three midfielders in world football today, who all happen to play in the English Premiership, and explains why the league's so unpredictable.
Sport24 asked: How would you sum up your SuperSport United career?
Dean Furman: My five years with SuperSport United were fantastic to be honest. What will always stand out for me is the amount of trophies that we won. I will always remember my first meeting with CEO Stan Matthews. He said, “Dean join me at SuperSport United and we will win trophies together. “ And that is exactly what we did. I am very proud of the fact that we were one of the most dominant teams in the country during my time. That is something I will always remember and it was a very successful time for the club. I headed back to the UK for family reasons. My daughter Darcie Mila is now four months old. I’m really enjoying seeing her grow up and she is keeping us very busy!
Sport24 asked: How did your move to Carlisle United come about?
Dean Furman: The pandemic certainly took its toll and to find a club was very difficult. However, thankfully Carlisle manager Chris Beech remembered me from when I was playing in the UK previously and he invited me up to train with the team for a couple of days. At the end of my training days, he saw enough to offer me a contract. It’s a very young team, so I think a little bit of my experience will go a long way. It’s a team with a number of players who are getting their first real experience at first-team level. I think imparting some of my experience onto the team could be very valuable. There are some very good players here and in terms of League Two, in which we play, it’s far more physical than the PSL. The fourth tier of English football is definitely more direct in terms of the way teams play and is not an open, expansive game which I was accustomed to in South Africa.
Sport24 asked: Do you still harbour ambitions to play for Bafana?
Dean Furman: Yeah, I had a chat with current Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki a couple of weeks ago and of course I still have ambitions to wear the jersey (Furman has played 56 times for South Africa and has scored four goals). However, it’s difficult at the moment as there are quarantine laws upon returning to the UK pretty much from everywhere in the world, so that makes it very challenging. I always want to represent my country but I really have to assess the situation if and when I’m called up again. Molefi has been very unfortunate in the sense that he’s been in charge of the national team for about 18 months and so many games have been cancelled. I’m sure all he wants to do is get going, so it’s good to see that the national team has assembled for two friendlies. He has called up a very strong and competitive squad. My ex-SuperSport United teammate Teboho Mokoena has been called up. I have watched Tebs grow and have seen him become the player he is today. I only see big things for him because he really is a fantastic young talent. I’m very excited to see how he does in the national jersey. I believe he really can dominate for a long time because he is young and hungry. As with the others, it’s time for the young lads to start coming through now. I think as the older boys, we have had a good run at it. If the younger boys are knocking on the door and they are saying, “Right it’s my time,” then that is exactly what the national team needs. But you still need a blend of youth and experience. Experience is crucial, especially when times get tough and it goes a long way when playing on the continent. However, I’m very excited by our latest crop of young talent and they have to continue pushing so as to become the future of South African football.
Sport24 asked: What are your highlights in a Bafana Bafana jersey?
Dean Furman: My debut in 2012 was something that I will certainly never forget because I never really thought it would happen. I always hoped it would happen and had huge aspirations to play for my country but I always seemed to get overlooked. I was grateful to Gordon Igesund for giving me my opportunity at national level... The 1-0 round of 16 win against Egypt at Afcon 2019 was also certainly one of my highlights. The manner of the victory really stands out to me. It wasn’t a smash-and-grab or sit-back-and-defend approach - it was an all-round performance. Tactically, Stuart Baxter got it spot on and the performance on the night was brilliant to the point where we got applauded off the pitch by the locals. It doesn’t happen unless you play exceptionally well. That was one of the highlights of my career let alone my time with Bafana. It was really disappointing not to go all the way in the tournament especially after we got back into the game against Nigeria in the quarterfinal. At that stage, it really felt like we were in a strong position but unfortunately a last minute set-piece undid all our good work. It was really disappointing to exit at that stage of the event but certainly the theme to build on is that we were mixing it with the big boys and have shown on our day we are capable of matching them. Bafana’s current ranking (72nd) is unfortunate but the only way to improve that is to win games and keep qualifying for major tournaments. Whether Bafana move up or down the rankings is down to the players on the pitch. As players, we focus on the games ahead of us rather than rankings. You win matches and you move up in the rankings. It’s as simple as that. We focus on what we do on the pitch and let the rankings take care of themselves.
Sport24 asked: Top three midfielders in the game today and why?
Dean Furman: As a defensive midfielder myself, I’m a massive fan of the old N’Golo Kante when he used to play in front of a back four as opposed to now playing higher up the pitch. I loved how he used to break up play and keep it simple. He was a major player in Leicester and Chelsea’s title-winning teams. He is certainly one of my favourites. Thiago Alcantara is also a special talent. I’m excited to see him in the Premier League. He is such a good player and his passing ability is incredible. He is just one of those players who always looks like he has time on the ball. I would probably also have to go with Kevin de Bruyne of Manchester City. He may not be a central midfielder but every single week he can be seen making things happen. His assists, goals and passes are stellar and the way he dictates play definitely sees him up there as one of the best in the world.
Sport24 asked: Did Arsenal do the best deadline day business?
Dean Furman: Thomas Partey is a very good player. Having played against him recently, I was very impressed. It was a difficult pitch in Ghana and he dealt with it as if he was playing at Wembley. He looked very comfortable and dealt with the ball very well. I’m sure he is going to be an asset to Arsenal and is a very good singing… I have also been impressed with Chelsea’s signings this summer. They obviously feel they are a long way off Manchester City and Liverpool and they have done something about it in the market. I hope the blend of young players who came through last season like Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James are still considered as regulars and they are given the opportunity to mix it with the new players who have been bought this summer. It looks to be the case and I hope that Frank Lampard, who is one of my heroes, is in for a good season... The start to the Premier League season has been absolutely incredible. I can’t really tell what is going on at the moment – Leicester go win at City and then get a hiding from West Ham. The results are just all over the place at the moment. Liverpool looked incredibly strong and then take a hiding off Aston Villa. Meanwhile, Everton have had the best start to the season but can they keep it up? Spurs are also looking strong with Gareth Bale still to come in. You don’t know how it will turn, which is why the English Premiership is probably the most loved league across the world. It’s so unpredictable and long may it continue. There are so many reasons you can find for the unpredictable nature. People are talking about the fact that there are no fans in the stadium and whether that’s having some sort of effect. It’s also possible that the quick turnaround has had a part to play but it’s great because we are seeing loads of goals and end-to-end games. As a neutral, that is exactly what you want to see.
Sport24 asked: What are your post-playing career plans?
Dean Furman: Coaching is something I’m definitely considering. I have been fortunate to have worked with some fantastic coaches over my career and have tried to take some good points from all of them. Over the next few years, I will continue with my coaching badges. I’m at the very early stages and it’s something I will need to look into again during the off-season. I also have a degree in sports science, which is a big part of the game and I may look to go down that route as well. By the end of my career, I would have wanted to have lined up some options, so I can decide which way I want to go in the future. I have always said that a goal of mine is to try get to 35 and still play the game. Anything beyond that is a bonus. I’m 32 but still feel fit despite a few niggling injuries at the start of the season. I’m feeling really good and there is no reason to think about retiring yet. I love the game and it’s all I’ve known since I went full-time from the age of 16. I feel very blessed to have lived the life of a professional footballer and it’s a life I want to continue living for as long as possible.