Top 10 South African Footballers of All-Time

South African Football has improved by leaps & bounds over the last two decades. Having been isolated from international football up until the early 90’s, Bafana Bafana has emerged from the ashes to announce themselves as one of the best in the continent. Just the fact that they were the first country from Africa to host the World Cup says volumes about how much they’ve improved the game within the country. On the international stage, South Africa has participated in a total of three world cups (1998 & 2002) including the 2010 edition that they hosted. 

In addition to World Cup participations, the country also secured silverware in continental competitions in the form of the 1996 AFCON Championship. Moving away from the achievements of their national team, the country today hosts one of the best football leagues’ in the continent – The Premier Soccer League. Despite being just 20 years old, the league has already surpassed the likes of the Egyptian & Tunisian Football leagues in terms of revenue & fan reception. More importantly, the country has been able to popularize the game within the country [1] without any truly “world-class” talent in their ranks. While the players mentioned below haven’t risen to the stature of a Drogba or George Weah, they have certainly earned their place in the Bafana Bafana folklore.

Countdown: Top 10 South African Footballers

10th. Siyabong Nomvethe (CF)

Nomvethe ranks among one of the very few South Africans who was able to forge a successful career in Europe. After a frantic youth career which saw him moving from one academy to another, Nomvethe made his professional debut with African Wanderers FC in 1997. In his first senior season itself, Nomvethe helped the club secure promotion to the South African Premier League. His performances with the Wanderers helped him secure a move to Kaizer Chiefs, one of the most decorated clubs in the country. Over the next three years from 1998 to 2001, Nomvethe went on to make over 75 appearances for the Chief’s & scoring a total of 42 goals in the process. Despite his goalscoring prowess, he was unable to help the club to any form of silverware during his time with them.

European Conquest

The summer of 2001 saw Nomvethe making his first foray into Europe by joining Italian club, Udinese. The striker failed to make an impact with the club and was limited to just 19 appearances in his two years at the club. Nomvethe spend the 2nd half of his 4-year career with Udinese on loan at several other clubs which included Salernitana & Empoli in Italy and Djugarden in Denmark. During the winter transfer window of 2006, Nomvethe made a permanent move away from Udinese by returning to the PSL with the Orlando Pirates.

In his 6 months with the Pirates, he was able to recapture his form & subsequently left for Europe for a second time, this time with Danish giants AaB Fodbold. It is with AaB that Nomvethe won his first ever major trophy, the 2007/08 Danish Superliga title. He was also part of the AaB side that reached the pre-quarters of the 2008/09 Europa League.

Return to PSL & Success

Nomvethe made a return to PSL in 2009 by joining the Moroka Swallows. He would go on to remain with the club for a total of 7 years till 2016. In this time with Birds, he made over 150 appearances for the club in all competitions & had a return of more than 50 goals in them. The highlight of his career with the Swallows came during the 2011/12 season, as he finished as the PSL’s top scorer. He was bestowed with several accolades at the end of the season which included the PSL footballer of the year, PSL player’s player of the season & ABSA player of the season. As of Feb 2017, Nomvethe still remains active & currently plays for Amazulu FC where he remains as influential as ever [2].

International Career

In an international career which spanned over 13 years, Nomvethe represented Bafana Bafana in a total of 82 internationals & scored a total of 16 goals in them. Having made his debut at the age 18, Nomvethe represented South Africa in 2 World Cups (2002 & 2010) & 4 consecutive AFCON Championships from 2000 to 2006. He scored the lone goal in their 1-0 win against Slovenia in the 98′ World Cup, which was South Africa’s first-ever win in a World Cup. Nomvethe played a crucial role in helping Bafana Bafana, to a 3rd place finish in the 2000 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Continue Reading: Top 10 South African Footballers of All-Time Part 2

External Resources

[1], Looking into the impact that the 2010 World Cup had on South African Football

[2], Nomvethe & his impact at Amazulu FC