|DOLLIGHTFUL: Keagan Dolly after his 1st goal in Gambia|
I said hello, Dolly,
Well, hello, Dolly
It's so nice to have you back
where you belong
You're lookin' swell, Dolly
I can tell, Dolly
You're still glowin'
You're still crowin'
You're still goin' strong
Those are the lyrics of one Louis Armstrong, in a hit single which swept around the world in 1964 after the launch of “Hello Dolly”, the musical of the same name.
I was three at the time but here we are, 52 years later and Keagan Dolly, aged 23, has finally become a hit with South Africa’s national football team.
Dolly, from the same Westbury suburb west of Johannesburg as Everton’s Steven Pienaar, should have been a Bafana Bafana veteran with 30+ caps by now.
But years of non-selection by the agent-manipulated national head coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba meant that his two assists and two fantastic strikes in Gambia on Saturday marked just his SECOND international appearance.
Dolly, who moved from Ajax Cape Town to Mamelodi Sundowns for R7m in 2014, was actually given a debut that year during 3-0 win over Sudan in Omdurman.
Since then, Mashaba has used various excuses to keep South Africa’s finest young player out of the senior squad, ranging from youth, lack of fitness, being on loan at his former club Ajax Cape Town, and - infamously - refusing to pick Keagz for the AFCON 2017 clashes against Cameroon this year “because he is involved in the U23 friendly in Brazil”.
While Rivaldo Coetzee, three years younger, was consistently selected despite obvious failings, Dolly was persistently ignored despite his progress in the PSL with Pitso's Masandawana.
That glaring omission came back to haunt Shaky on Saturday. Dolly, rampaging down the left, made two goals for low-scoring Orlando Pirates striker Thami Gabuza before thumping home two of his own from outside the box. Imagine, we asked, if Dolly had played in all the Group M qualifiers? Would that left foot have been the difference against Cameroon?
It was Dolly’s day. So much so that it’s hard to imagine him returning to PSL champions Mamelodi Sundowns after the Rio Olympics, he is surely bound for a European apprenticeship in September.
|CHAMPION: Keagan Dolly in action for Sundowns|
Amid the bizarre suggestions that this was some stroke of Mashaba genius or that we had suddenly found a superhero, the more enlightened Bafana fans recognised the record 4-0 away win in Bakau for what it was: too little, too late for our boys.
Dolly himself said: "There’s more to come, watch this space!
“This has been some year for me. I have won lots of things, selected for major awards and now being called for the national team and do this.
“It gives me a wonderful feeling but I want to continue working hard so that I repay the faith my coaches have placed on me.
“The coach told me to shoot when I am within range and I did exactly that in the second half and the rest as they say, is history.
“With the team leading 2-0 and cruising, I told myself ‘give it a go’ and boy I have never felt so good.
“My career is really blossoming but will continue to work hard, keep my feet grounded and put more effort in whatever I do.”
The sky appears to be the limit now for Dolly as Sundowns head in to the group stages of the African Champions League by default and Bafana prepare for COSAFA and the Olympics.
But soon the World Cup draw will outline the way ahead for South African football, where Dolly will become the central figure in Bafana’s plans.
It matters not who leads the nation in to those qualifiers, Dolly - and other youngsters ignored despite Danny Jordaan’s now-forgotten Vision 2022 plans - are the future for South Africa football. The nation will insist on a youthful future after Dolly’s heroics, no matter who leads the team.
Though a national coach who picks on form, youth and is capable of understanding modern football would be a major advantage in what promises to be a turbulent road to Russia in 2018.