FOR­TUNE HAS SEEN FAVOUR

Cosafa Cup de­but gave mid­fielder an edge at Bafana Af­con se­lec­tion time

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTHOWAGAE daniel.mothowagae@city­press.co.za

Had he not been a pro­fes­sional foot­ball player, Mar­itzburg United mid­fielder For­tune Makaringe would be in the class­room teach­ing math­e­mat­ics and ge­og­ra­phy.

The 25-year-old is still con­vinced he made the right choice, see­ing how much he has pro­gressed on the foot­ball pitch.

How­ever, it has taken him some time to es­tab­lish him­self at the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, out­fit af­ter he joined from Moroka Swal­lows three years ago.

“I spent a lot of time not play­ing and that had me think­ing I was not good enough,” re­called Makaringe, who hails from Vosloorus.

He grew up idol­is­ing home­town heroes such as the late Em­manuel “Scara” Ngob­ese and Jab­u­lani Mendu, who are also from the town­ship in Ekurhu­leni.

Hav­ing en­rolled for a teach­ers’ de­gree at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg, Makaringe was eight weeks short of grad­u­at­ing and had just em­barked on his prac­ti­cals at a lo­cal school. But then Mar­itzburg came call­ing with a pro­fes­sional con­tract.

“Things would not have been the same had I fol­lowed teach­ing, but the lessons I learnt in that field has some­how helped to el­e­vate my ca­reer as a foot­baller, es­pe­cially my level of think­ing,” re­flected the lanky mid­fielder.

Makaringe was this week re­called to Bafana Bafana for the must-win Africa Cup of Na­tions (Af­con) qual­i­fier against Nige­ria on Satur­day.

In­juries to reg­u­lar play­ers in the Bafana mid­field pre­sented an open­ing for the likes of Makaringe to be called up, be­cause Kamo­h­elo Mokotjo, Sibusiso Vi­lakazi, Kea­gan Dolly, Bongani Zungu and Dean Fur­man are all out for the long term.

Bafana coach Stu­art Baxter ex­plained that play­ers like Makaringe made the cut by virtue of hav­ing been part of the na­tional team set-up be­fore.

“We wanted to make sure we bring in play­ers who have been around. For ex­am­ple, For­tune Makaringe was in the Cosafa Cup squad be­fore. I don’t re­ally want to bring in a lot of play­ers who had never been in the squad be­fore,” ex­plained Baxter dur­ing the an­nounce­ment of the 23-man squad this week.

Makaringe has been called up along­side his club cap­tain, Siyanda Xulu.

“We look at the phys­i­cal na­ture of the game and there­fore a For­tune Makaringe will pos­si­bly hold sway over, maybe, a light­weight tech­ni­cal mid­field player,” added Baxter.

Makaringe was part of the South Africa squad in this year’s Cosafa

Cup, where he made his de­but in the shock de­feat to Mada­gas­car in the quar­ter­fi­nals in June.

He earned his sec­ond cap in the win over Namibia af­ter Bafana were relegated to the Plate sec­tion in the re­gional tour­na­ment.

How­ever, he missed the fi­nal af­ter ac­cu­mu­lat­ing two yel­low cards, which re­sulted in an au­to­matic sus­pen­sion.

“That camp helped me a lot to

get the feel of foot­ball out­side club level,” said the for­mer Moroka Swal­lows de­vel­op­ment player. Makaringe faces tough com­pe­ti­tion for a start­ing berth in the lat­est mid­field that has Sun­downs an­chor­men Hlom­pho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda most likely to start in the cen­tre of the park against the Su­per Ea­gles.

The con­tin­u­ous rise of his for­mer Mar­itzburg team-mate Le­bo­hang Maboe has also kept Makaringe dream­ing big.

Maboe de­buted in the last qual­i­fier against the Sey­chelles last month and the Sun­downs new­comer is one of the at­tack­ing op­tions for Baxter, along­side Hol­land-based Thu­lani Serero and Or­lando Pi­rates’ Vin­cent Pule.

“It’s in­spir­ing to see Le­bza’s progress. It re­ally shows that if you work hard and have self-be­lief, things will hap­pen,” said Makaringe.

He added that he was look­ing for­ward to the re­union with his pal, who joined Sun­downs at the start of the cur­rent cam­paign.

The pair en­joyed a break­through year last sea­son, where they – along­side Siph­e­sihle Ndlovu – played a star­ring role in the Mar­itzburg team that fin­ished fourth in the Absa Pre­mier­ship.

Makaringe – For­tune Teller to his peers – con­tin­ues to be a reg­u­lar in coach Fadlu Davids’ mid­field, with only sus­pen­sion com­ing be­tween him and his progress this cam­paign. He has fea­tured in 10 games in all com­pe­ti­tions so far this sea­son.

Mean­while, Nige­ria has named a full-strength squad mainly made up of over­seas-based play­ers to face South Africa.

A win for ei­ther Bafana or Nige­ria on Satur­day will seal qual­i­fi­ca­tion to next year’s con­ti­nen­tal show­piece in Cameroon.

Bafana will face Libya away in their fi­nal group match in March.

PHOTO: PHILIP MAETA / GALLO IM­AGES

BACK IN THE MIX For­tune Makaringe has been re­called to Bafana Bafana. He is seen here against Kaizer Chiefs’ An­dri­ami­rado An­dri­a­na­ri­manana

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