Ngcongca urges other South Africans to play abroad

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport, Reims
Troyes' South African defender Anele Ngcongca
Troyes' South African defender Anele Ngcongca

Troyes defender Anele Ngcongca says the South Africa team will benefit if more players leave the country's Premier Soccer League to play abroad.

Cape Town-born Ngcongca moved to Europe in August 2007, joining Belgian club Racing Genk just a few months after missing out on a deal with English side Arsenal.

After winning league and cup titles in Belgium as well as competing in the European Champions League and Europa League, he joined French side Troyes in August on a season-long loan deal.

The versatile defender believes that insular South African players need to broaden their horizons, and look at options overseas, which in turn could help boost the national side.

"The majority of our Bafana Bafana [national team] all play locally and it is having a negative effect on us against other established teams in Africa," Ngcongca told BBC Sport.

Former international stars like Lucas Radebe, Benni McCarthy, Shaun Bartlett, Quinton Fortune and Steven Pienaar have all excelled in Europe in the last two decades.

In recent times, South African players who have ventured overseas have not shown significant improvement.

But Ngcongca says the benefits of playing abroad far outweigh the disadvantages.

"When you look at a team in the class of Ivory Coast and Ghana at the 2015 Nations Cup, they've got players playing in Europe and you can see the big difference.

"It showed in how well they started the tournament and both ended up in the final, but South Africa lacked that mental ability, toughness, exposure and experience," Ngcongca added.

The Troyes defender says it is time for his fellow South African players to be courageous.

"If we can get some of our players into Europe I'm sure we'll be a better team. They should not be afraid to move abroad because that is where they will be exposed to a different level."

"It wouldn't hurt them to come abroad and play on a big stage where they can improve as players.

"The fear in Europe is how to adjust to the language and the weather. I also faced same challenges but it was my dream to play in Europe so I was determined to succeed.

"Growing up, I wanted to play in the Champions League and when the opportunity to play in Genk came I grabbed it and I have never looked back," Ngcongca said.

Ngcongca admits that there are some obvious reasons why players might choose to stay in South Africa.

"The obvious problem with South Africans struggling to come to Europe is that they are well paid at home and these players don't want to leave the comfort zone.

"All the trailblazers like Benni, the big man Lucas [Radebe] and others, sacrificed a lot to succeed in Europe. In the end they got the benefits as they went on to qualify and play at the World Cup - making big transfer moves as well.

"You cannot force anyone to follow the same path as others, but for self-development - and to succeed as a nation - we need to challenge ourselves against the best on a regular basis at the top.

"Our generation was lucky to play at the 2010 World Cup and the Nations Cup three years later at home - only because we hosted these events.

"For us to qualify for both tournaments [2017 Nations Cup and 2018 World Cup] it will be a great achievement for our generation but to make an impact we must first test ourselves with the very best in the world."