GLYN BINKIN has finally lifted the lid on Bongani Khumalo’s future in football – revealing he has no great pull to return to South Africa as “he has no family left here.”
Binkin also defended his player’s role at the African Cup of Nations earlier this year – pointing to centre-back partner Siya Sangweni’s role in the Bafana team that failed on penalties to reach the semi-finals on
home soil earlier this year.
We spent two hours in the Ballz visual radio studio yesterday, discussing several of Binkin’s men – Morgan Gould and Mabhuti Khenyeza amongst them – but Khumalo’s situation is fascinating.
Binkin is understandably peeved about former Bafana captain Khumalo’s loan move to Championship side Ipswich falling through when Tottenham Hotspur changed their wage demands and insisted on being able to recall the Swaziland-born centre-back in January.
Binkin, who represents many of South Africa’s top footballers at home and abroad through “The Players' Club”, said: “Bongani’s been at Spurs for two and a half years now. He went on loan to Preston North End in 2011 on emergency loan and did really well until he broke a bone in his ankle.
“Then he went to Reading, started off okay, but after six or seven games, he lost his place and was unlucky. In January 2012 he went back to Spurs, even there he was training and playing in the reserves with Sandro, Cudicini, Kyle Walker.
“He was performing at a high level. Then he went on loan to PAOK in Greece. He only missed one game before AFCON where he captained South Africa.
“But while he was away, PAOK signed two permanent central defenders. He came back and found he had lost his place. But he’s always been a fighter, he upped his game.
“He was patient, he got back in the team and ended up playing 25 games in a League rated higher than Norway, Sweden and Denmark. They won the Champions League qualifying play-offs and was in unbelievable form.
“He came back to South Africa and went to train with Ipswich, played in a game on day three and did particularly well. Then he played another. He impressed. But when it came to talks with Spurs, the initial offer was declined. Spurs went back for more money, Ipswich agreed.
“But then Spurs insisted on a clause which said they could recall Bongani in January. Ipswich then had the opportunity to sign a centre-back permanently. The deal fell through.
“I don’t understand why Spurs did that. Now the first team are in Hong Kong, the development squad are in Portugal and Bongani is training on his own in London.
“Bongani’s always been a fighter. His life has been hard, people don’t realise that. His father – a linguistics professor at UNISA – is dead. His mother, a teacher, has also passed away. He is an only child. He has no family here.
“When Bongani was 15, he was scouted at a youth tournament in Ireland by Manchester United but his mother insisted he stay in South Africa and finish his schooling.
“He did that. Now he has this fight on his hands. There is no family reason to stay in South Africa. He could play here are earn good money with the big clubs in the PSL, but he wants to make it in Europe.
“I believe he has the ability and the fighting spirit to be the next Lucas Radebe, the next Mark Fish. A major defensive talent in Europe. There are a lot of similarities with Lucas. He struggled for a long time but he finally got the break at Leeds and now he’s a legend.
“Bongani is not going to give up. He will make sacrifices. He will forge a career in Europe.”
I asked Binkin if he thought Khumalo got a fair crack of the whip after he was lampooned for his “model C accent” while captaining South Africa during AFCON.
Binkin replied: “I don’t believe he had a bad tournament. He didn’t ask to be captain. It was an honour, he’d captained SuperSport to the title. Unfortunately he became a scapegoat.
“There were a lot of dynamics in that team that didn’t work in his favour. I have the ultimate respect for Siya Sangweni, he’s a fantastic player.
“But at the end of the day he’s a right-sided defender who scored twice in AFCON from the left wing! Did that suit the team? It was good that he scored, but it pulled the whole defence out of shape. Bongani got criticised for that. I don’t think that was fair.”
Glyn was a guest of BOLLOCKZ! my show on www.ballz.co.za, which happens every Thursday from 10am-noon. We also spoke to Wits coach Gordon Hunt, Mpumalanga boss Clive Barker and Tlou Segolela’s agent Tim Sukazi about the “political hazards” at Orlando Pirates. Those interviews will appear here later.
You can also follow me on www.twitter.com/nealcol for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday in www.thenewage.co.za.
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