Craig Martin of Cape Town City during the Nedbank Cup, Last 32 match between Cape Town City FC and Bloemfontein Celtic.
Bafana Bafana head coach Molefi Ntseki on Thursday handed a maiden call-up to three new players in a 26-man squad for the back-to-back 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against Ghana and Sudan in March.
Cape Town City’s Craig Martin, AmaZulu goalkeeper Veli Mothwa, Orlando Pirates’ Ben Motshwari were all called up to the senior men’s side for the first time.
Attacker Ruzaigh Gamildien also made a long-awaited return to the national squad after being in fine form in front of goal so far this season.
Ntseki also stuck by veteran goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and midfielder Bongani Zungu after their recent controversies regarding Covid-19 breaches.
The Bafana Bafana tactician rewarded the three new faces by being included in the senior squad after their fine displays so far this season and paid a glowing tribute to each player.
Ntseki listed the motivation behind each player’s selection and will be hoping that they each can have an impact in the two qualifiers for next year’s competition.
The 27-year-old Craig Martin receives his first cap after impressing for CT City since being converted from a speedy winger into a right-back or right wing-back.
A late developer, Martin was plucked from the obscurity of the third tier of South African football by then-head coach for CT City, Benni McCarthy back in 2017.
“A new face in the Bafana Bafana team,” Ntseki said. “Craig has been doing very well for Cape Town City and even kept the captain [Thami Mkhize] out of the team. He has been playing as a right-back or right wing-back with his energy levels.
“If you also look at the generation of players that he comes from, he’s born in 1993 so we felt he’s a player for the future to compete on the right with Morena and the rest of the guys.”
Mothwa has impressed for AmaZulu, coincidentally also under McCarthy since clinching a move from Chippa United at the start of the season.
“We want to congratulate him, Veli has been doing very well since the move to AmaZulu from Chippa United,” Nseki said. “We are very pleased with his performances that see him coming into the Bafana Bafana squad for the first time.
“We can only wish him the best of luck.”
Midfielder Motshwari has impressed for Orlando Pirates this season as a mainstay in the Buccaneers midfield in a side who are emerging as title contenders.
“Ben has been knocking on the door to be part of Bafana Bafana for some time and it was a very thin margin between himself and Thabang Monare to be selected into the team.
“So when we profiled the qualities of Ben we decided that if we were short of options Ben could willingly fill in. Although he doesn’t have the experience he has been a regular for Pirates in the Champions League so it was fitting for us to bring him in.”
Bafana Bafana will face Ghana at the FNB Stadium on 25 March before travelling to Sudan for an away clash on 28 March in back-to-back 2021 AFCON qualifiers.