There was a time when the late Phil Masinga felt playing for Bafana was not worth it‚ reveals Neil Tovey
South African Football Association (SAFA) technical director Neil Tovey believes that if today’s Bafana Bafana strikers had the same steel and determination as Phil Masinga‚ the country would be qualifying for more international tournaments.
Tovey was a long-time national teammate of Masinga‚ who passed away on Sunday after a battle with cancer‚ and shared arguably Bafana’s greatest moments on the pitch with the tall striker.
The former national team skipper says he is especially appreciative of the hard graft Masinga put in as the side made a difficult reintroduction to international football in 1992.
“What Phil had in those early days was resilience and a fierce determination to succeed‚” Tovey tells TimesLIVE.
“If we had more Bafana strikers like him today we would be qualifying for more tournaments.
“He also added an extra dimension for us.
“Generally we wanted to play through the midfield because we had the creativity of Shoes [John Moshoeu] and Doc [Doctor Khumalo]‚ but in tougher games we could go direct to Phil up front and he would bring the midfielders into play.
“So with Phil in the side we had a multi-dimensional way in which we could attack teams and that proved very successful.”
Tovey also recalls difficult times for Masinga and admits there was a time that the striker had to be persuaded to keep playing for the national team as fans continually booed him despite a handy goals record of 18 in 58 caps.
“There was a point when he felt it wasn’t worth it‚ getting booed every game by the people who should love him. As a footballer it is terrible to be booed by your own fans.
“We would rally around him though and he was never alone‚ even though at times I think he felt that he was.
“At one stage he discussed giving up playing for the national side as he was coming from overseas‚ where he was fighting for a place in his club side‚ and then getting a bad reception from his own fans.
“But he soldiered on and thank goodness he did as it paid dividends. He ended up with a Nations Cup winners’ medal and of course scored that amazing goal to take us to the World Cup [in 1998].”
Tovey reveals that Masinga was fairly quiet in the dressingroom‚ though he was also not afraid to have his say and was a good ‘team man’.
“Phil wasn’t a loud person‚ but when it came time to have his say he didn’t back away from sharing his thoughts.
“He had a lot of time for his teammates and as the years went by the team got stronger off the field‚ I think he played a definite part in that.”
Masinga passed away at a Parktown hospital after a long illness. He was 49.