Lyle Foster a ‘big loss’ for Bafana as Hugo Broos slams PSL’s festive fixtures

Lyle Foster, seen here in action against the Ivory Coast in October, won’t be part of the Bafana Afcon squad despite featuring for Burnley recently. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix

Lyle Foster, seen here in action against the Ivory Coast in October, won’t be part of the Bafana Afcon squad despite featuring for Burnley recently. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix

Published Dec 29, 2023


Hugo Broos cut a sorry figure as he lamented not only the unavailability of two key forwards for selection, but also the lack of support from the Premier Soccer League for Bafana Bafana’s quest to become African champions.

Broos announced the final Bafana 23-man squad for the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) from his home in Belgium yesterday afternoon, and excited is not the word you’d have used to describe his mood.

Displaying a professor-like appearance – with his black-rimmed reading glasses and a dark cardigan over a white shirt as he sat in his study – Broos could well have been a man disappointed by his students.

That he could not pick Lyle Foster of Premier League side Burnley clearly irked the one-time winner of the biennial continental showpiece the most, Broos being at pains to explain the striker’s supposed ill-health despite the fact he has been in action for his club.

He spoke at length about how he has been in communication with his compatriot Vincent Kompany – the Burnley manager – as well as the club’s medical team, but always came back to the conclusion that “it does not make sense”.

Foster is supposedly not well psychologically and needs 24-hour medical care, which his club believes he cannot get from the national team during their time in the Ivory Coast.

The striker, who according to information Broos got from Burnley was “agitated“ at seeing his name in the 50-man preliminary squad, has apparently written to the South African Football Association indicating his unwillingness to be at the Afcon.

“It’s a big loss not having Foster and (Lebo) Mothiba (the Strasbourg striker, who is injured), for sure,” the coach explained.

But such is the life of a top coach, and in a country with a population of about 60 million, an experienced technician like him should have no problem making do without the services of an uninterested star, right?

Broos believes he has done just that, and in the Orlando Pirates duo of Zakhele Lepasa and Evidence Makgopa, he thinks he has able replacements for the overseas-based duo.

“I was always happy with Lepasa before. Makgopa was with me two years ago, and he did very well. He then went to Orlando Pirates and didn’t have much play-time,” the coach said.

“But you see now this season, the coach (Jose Riveiro) believes (in) him. We can do something with those two strikers. But honestly, I would have loved to see Mothiba and Foster with me.”

Another thing the man who led Cameroon to continental glory back in 2017 would have loved is to have had the squad in camp much earlier than the January 4 date that they will assemble on in Stellenbosch.

“I was very upset because the PSL did not want to stop the competition (league) on the 24th (December) so we could have the players recover mentally and physically from the overloaded programme of October and November.

“We wrote to them in May before the end of last season, and they did not answer.

“They later said to us they support Bafana and the effort of the coach, but then said much blah blah blah that they can’t stop the process (the league).

“They must not tell me anymore that they support Bafana. How can you not support the national team?” he asked, the agitation in his voice palpable.

Because of that, Broos is only going to have a lone friendly international against Lesotho on January 10 before the squad travels to the Ivory Coast, where they will battle it out with Mali, Tunisia and Namibia for a place in the knock-out stages.

The absence of Foster and Mothiba aside, there is also the glaring omission of Pyramids FC’s Fagrie Lakay, as well as the non-inclusion of USA-based Njabulo Blom and Bongokuhle Hlongwane that raised eyebrows.

Broos is prepared to fall on his sword for his choices, though.

“The competition in America stopped two months ago already in October. They train yes – (Hlongwane) in Maritzburg and Blom with SuperSport.

“But Afcon is a very intense tournament. You need to have the momentum of the game, and it will be two months out for them. It was very difficult for me to choose them.

“I took my decision based on that. And Hlongwane was not really convincing in the last game he played for with us, and that is the right choice (leaving him out) for me.”

Bafana Bafana squad for Afcon

Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams (Mamelodi Sundowns), Veli Mothwa (AmaZulu), Ricardo Goss (SuperSport United).

Defenders: Khuliso Mudau, Grant Kekana, Terrence Mashego, Aubrey Modiba, Mothobi Mvala (all Sundowns), Nkosinathi Sibisi (Orlando Pirates), Sydney Mobbie (Sekhukhune United), Siyanda Xulu (SuperSport).

Midfielders: Teboho Mokoena, Thapelo Maseko, Thapelo Morena (all Sundowns), Sphephelo Sithole (CD Tondela, Portugal), Jayden Adams (Stellenbosch FC), Thabang Monare (Pirates).

Forwards: Themba Zwane (Sundowns), Zakhele Lepasa, Evidence Makgopa (both Pirates), Oswin Appollis (Polokwane City), Mihlali Mayambela (Aris Limassol, Cyprus), Percy Tau (Al Ahly, Egypt).