As the coronavirus sensation continues shutting down sports events, the debate pot has been kept full to the brim with fans finding solace in engagement.
By Farai Diza - Freelance Journalist
One of the hottest topics on the local football stratosphere is Bongi Ntuli’s exclusion from national team coach Molefi Ntseki’s latest Bafana Bafana squad set to do battle against Sao Tome and Principe in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
While the postponement of the qualifiers brings a glimmer of hope for Ntuli’s inclusion, his initial omission is the warder's missing glove.
The Amazulu hotshot striker is in the form of his life netting goals at free will in the Absa Premier Soccer League (PSL). He has found the back of the net 12 times in the current campaign despite playing for a team that is slightly hovering above the relegation. He has also bagged a goal apiece in the Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup.
To add icing to the Meringue Pie, Ntuli is the leading South African on the top scorers' chart. His exploits have seen him being credited for almost single-handedly driving his club out of the murky relegation waters having netted 12 of their 14 goals.
Ntuli stole back page headlines when he gave seasoned Kaizer Chiefs defender Erick Mathoho a torrid time in their recent league encounter. He turned the usually rock-solid Mathoho into a mere spectator through his menacing runs and pulsating pace.
The message was clear: he was upping his stakes for a national team call-up.
Ntuli’s representative, Mandla Mthembu, recently told Soccer Laduma: “Bongi’s exclusion is unexplainable. Part of his goals this season was to break into the national team and his performances suggest that he should be part of the team”.
Coach Ntseki believes that the door is still open for Ntuli considering that Bafana has often found the going tough upfront.
“I have always been a big fan of Bongi and my adoration for him can be traced back to my time as Stuart Baxter’s (former Bafana Bafana assistant coach). I have also been closely watching all his club games with keen interest. He is very mobile and skilful,” said Ntseki who is yet to taste competitive football as the Bafana head coach.
“I profile all the players and Bongi has proved that he can perform every week. He is one of the players who are on standby should one of the selected players fails to make it to camp because of an injury or anything else,” he added.
While Ntuli may struggle to fit into a Bafana front line boasting of experienced attackers such as Lebo Mothiba and Percy Tau, training alongside these stars would boost his confidence as he is one for the future.
This has worked for Juventus and Argentina winger Paulo Dybala, who enjoys the inspiration of Cristiano Ronaldo at club level and Lionel Messi in the national team.
Ntuli is two goals shy of Gabadinho Mhango’s 14 in the race for the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot Award.
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