FORTUNE HAS SEEN FAVOUR
Cosafa Cup debut gave midfielder an edge at Bafana Afcon selection time
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.
BACK IN THE MIX Fortune Makaringe has been recalled to Bafana Bafana. He is seen here against Kaizer Chiefs’ Andriamirado Andrianarimanana