Top 10 South African Footballers of All-Time

9th. Shaun Bartlett (CF)

A former player turned manager, Shaun Bartlett currently works as the manager of Pretoria FC, a National First Division club. Having spent most of his youth career with Vasco da Gama FC, a club based in Capetown. Bartlett went on to make his professional debut with an another Capetown-based club, Cape Town Spurs FC in 1992. During his three years with the Cape Town outfit, Bartlett made over 100 appearances for the club & scored more than 50 goals for them.

In 1996, Bartlett made a surprise to move to the US, joining Colorado Rapids for what was the inaugural season of the MLS. He would remain in the states only for two seasons, featuring for the Rapids for a year and a half & another 6 months with the New York Red Bulls, who were then known as Metro Stars.

Zurich & Charlton

After a brief return to Cape Town Spurs for the 1997/98 season, Bartlett moved to Europe for the first time joining Swiss Club, FC Zurich in 1998. In his two years with the Swiss club, Bartlett featured in more than 75 games & scored over 25 goals for the club. He also won his first major trophy in the form of the 1999/00 Swiss Cup. Bartlett was instrumental in the club’s success, scoring a hat-trick in their semi-final win over FC Luzern. He also scored in the final, helping Zurich to a 2-1 lead, despite Luzern scoring an equalizer, Zurich eventually went on to win the game via shootout.

In what was initially a loan move, Bartlett joined EPL club, Charlton Athletic in 2000. After an impressive season with the Addicks, Bartlett was signed on to a permanent deal with the club. In his 6 years with Charlton, he made over 100 appearances & scored more than 20 goals for the club. Following the end of the 2005/06 season, Bartlett returned to his home country, joining Kaizer Chiefs FC.

In his two years with the Chiefs, Bartlett would win the Telkom Knockout in 2007 & the MTN 8 Cup in 2008. Upon leaving the Chiefs in 2008, Bartlett joined a fellow South African club, Bloemfontein Celtic. After a single season with them, Bartlett called it a day on his playing career in 2009.

International Career

Having made his international debut for Bafana Bafana in 1995, Bartlett went on to feature in a total of 74 internationals for his country over a span of 10 years. His 29 goals in 74 appearances, makes him their 2nd highest South African goal-scorer in history. Bartlett was part of South Africa’s 1996 AFCON winning squad, his most notable contribution during the tournament came in the semi-finals, as he got on the scoresheet in their 3-0 win over Ghana.

He was also part of South Africa’s 2000 & 2002 AFCON squads. The striker played a key role in helping them to a 3rd place finish in the 2002 edition of the competition. The striker emerged as the eventual golden boot winner & was also named in the team of the tournament.Bartlett was also part of South Africa’s 98′ World Cup squad & even scored a brace in their group stage tie against Saudi Arabia.

8th. Aaron Mokoena (CB)

Renowned for his crunching tackles, Aaron “The Axe” Mokoena remains to this day the most capped South African international. Spotted at a very young age, Mokoena made his professional debut at the age of 18 with Dutch giants, Ajax in 1999. His four years with the club saw him making just 7 appearances in total, with two of the four years being spent on loan with Belgian club, Beerschot AC. Upon impressing during his loan stints, Mokoena earned a permanent move to Belgium in 2003, joining former Belgian Pro league champions, KRC Genk. Once again Mokoena was unable to cement his place with his new club & following a couple of under-par seasons at the club, Mokoena made the move to the EPL by signing with Blackburn Rovers.

Premier League Stint

Mark Hughes who was in charge of the Rovers at the time made Mokoena move up the pitch do a holding midfielder role. The change in base position helped Mokoena grab a hold of a starting spot on the team & went on to play a critical role in Blackburn’s 6th place finish in the 05/06 season. Towards the end of his 4-year stint with Blackburn, Mokoena’s role at the club was minimized, often being used as a substitute rather than a starter.

In search of more game time, Mokoena made the switch to fellow Premier League club Portsmouth in the summer of 2009. He played a starring role in the Pompey’s 2009/10 FA Cup campaign which saw them reach the final only to lose to Chelsea 1-0. In 2012 Mokoena was let go from Portsmouth as the club were on the verge of falling into administration [1]. Following his departure from Portsmouth, Mokoena returned to South Africa & went on to feature in the PSL for the first time in his career with Bidvest Wits FC & ultimately retired with them in 2013.

International Career

Mokoena to this day remains the youngest ever South African international having made his debut at the age of 18 in 1999. Soon after making his debut, Mokoena made his first appearance for the country in an international tournament during the 2000 Summer Olympics. Upon impressing on the international scene, he went on to feature in a number of International & Continental tournaments for the country which includes the 2002 World Cup & the 2002 AFCON Championships.

As the captain of Bafana Bafana, Mokoena led the side to the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, 2009 Confederations Cup & 2010 FIFA World Cup. He captained the side when they got the better of France (2-0) in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup which resulted in Les Blues being knocked out. A month before the 2010 World Cup, Mokoena earned his 100th cap for the country by featuring in a friendly against Guatemala & thereby becoming the first South African to reach the milestone.

Continue Reading: Top 10 South African Footballers of All Time – Part 3

External Resources

[1], The fall from grace of Portsmouth