Belgium-based midfielder Ayanda Patosi says he was saddened when he was left out of the 2015 CAF Africa Cup of Nations squad but also understands that football has such disappointments and he had to move on. Patosi is now back in the team and was one of the first players to arrive in camp ahead of the two international friendly matches against Swaziland and Nigeria. South Africa plays Sihlangu se Mnikati on Wednesday, 25 March at the Somhlolo Stadium and will host the Super Eagles on Sunday, 29 March at the Mbombela Stadium.
Patosi is on the books of Lokeren FC, and when he got the call-up did not even hesitate. SAFA Media sat down with him to share his excitement.
Matlhomola Morake: How does it feel to be back?
Ayanda Patosi: I am very happy to be back in the team. I have always wanted to be part of the squad. It has always been a dream of mine to play for Bafana Bafana since I was a kid, now I have that opportunity to play again and I am happy I am here.
MM: You missed out on the 2015 AFCON tournament in Equatorial Guinea earlier this year?
AP: I was very saddened when I was not named in that squad, but then again it is all part of the game. It happened and I just had to be strong and move on, but you must also bear in mind that a very good squad was selected. It was just unfortunate that we did not bring back the required results because the guys really gave their all in Equatorial Guinea. But that is all behind me now and here I am again so I have to take the chance with both hands and do my best.
MM: We are facing Swaziland and Nigeria, what is your take on those two matches?
AP: These should be good games for our team. They will help us to develop a lot as we will learn something from both matches. They offer different approaches and different threats and we have to treat them with a great degree of importance. A good win against Swaziland will give us a morale booster ahead of the perhaps more difficult clash against the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
MM: Last time we faced Nigeria we gave them a good run for their money in their backyard, what can we expect this time?
AP: In fact if you look closely at the matches in the 2015 qualifiers, we played very well against Nigeria. We actually dominated in some stages and were on the brink of victory but could not finish them off. We have to beat them this time because we had so many chances in our last two matches against them. I was in Cape Town watching the match and was very impressed by our players. This time I am part of the team and would like nothing but victory over them.
MM: New faces in the team, what do you make of it?
AP: It is good for the future of our national team, but what is even better is that nowadays many players want to play for the national team and that increases competition for places and helps the squad grow. Everybody now believes they will get a chance if they do well at their clubs, which is something that was missing before and this mean now we can have a squad that has players that are committed.
MM: How important is it to cement your place in the national team, and what are you going to do about it?
AP: It is very important to play for your country, important for your career because when you play for your national team you get more confidence when you return to your club. Also when my playing days are over, I can look back and say I also made a contribution to my country’s course. What I need to do is to work harder than I have. Right now I have been given a chance to be here but I should not just relax just because I have made it for now, because as they say, it is easy to get to the top but a bit harder to stay there. I need to show a lot discipline and keep on fighting to get better.
MM: About your future at the club, any moves coming up?
AP: For now I am contracted to Lokeren FC in Belgium and my focus is there, and I have to respect that. But obviously I would someday like to play in the higher leagues around the world. Hopefully someday I will get a chance to go play somewhere.
MM: And where would that be?
AP: I need to make it clear that I am happy at Lokeren and enjoying myself, but if sometime in the future an offer comes from Ajax Amsterdam I will not look back. That is the club I would someday like to play for and only time will tell. Other than that I would also like to play in Spain, Germany or England.
Photo credit: Sabelo Mngoma/BackpagePix