Saturday, 7 January 2017

GOODBYE DOLLY! Why South Africa's shining talent must go to Europe, before it's too late

Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior was born on February 5, 1992. He has won 75 international caps for Brazil and scored 50 goals for his country.

Keagan Larenzo Dolly was born on January 22, 1993. He has played 4 times for South Africa and scored two memorable goals against Gambia last year.

Neymar Jnr, born in Mori Das Cruzes near Sao Paulo, played for Santos in his home nation until the age of 21 when he finally accepted Barcelona’s advances.

Dolly, born in Westbury near Johannesburg, played for Ajax Cape Town before moving to Mamelodi Sundowns. Nearly 24 (the same age as Neymar), he was transferred for a reported R6m, has had offers of R10m from Europe, and now finds himself unable to move overseas.

Like Neymar before he left Brazil, Dolly has won just about everything domestically. League, both cups and this season, the African Champions League.

The crowning glory came just last week when Keagan was named in the CAF Africa XI ahead of Arsenal’s uber talented Alex Iwobi, who was named as a substitute.

Curiously, though his €750,000 buy-out clause has been met by both French club Montpellier and Greek giants Olympiacos, Dolly remains in South Africa with his coach Pitso Mosimane - last week voted Africa’s Coach of the year - saying “Keagan could do with another season in the PSL.”

In the same breath, Mosimane admits: “If Dolly gets the chance to go overseas, then he must go.”

All very confusing for Dolly, who should have won at least 30 Bafana Bafana caps in his short career, not to mention a move to Europe three years ago, if South African football REALLY wanted local youngsters to thrive internationally.

But a combination of the now-defunct Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba’s bizarre national selection policies and the PSL’s Dispute Resolution Chamber are denying Dolly the chance to be South Africa’s Neymar.

After his debut against Sudan in 2014, Mashaba chose to leave Dolly behind until close to  the end of his disastrous AFCON 2017 qualification failure. The DRC? They chose to allow Sundowns to change the buy-out clause on the contract he signed in 2015 - and new deal the PSL insisted on as there were “registration problems” when Dolly went back to his old club Ajax Cape Town on loan.

The DRC chose to accept Sundowns claim that they had “made a mistake” with the buy-out clause in Dolly’s new contract, effectively rendering all future PSL contracts disputable. A lamentable decision.

Has any other business EVER been allowed to claim they “blundered” on a signed contract? What would Masanadawana’s Champions League rivals think if they thought Dolly’s contract was not worth the paper it was written on?

In fact, Sundowns altered the eight sentences of the buy-out clause NINE times before Dolly was brought in - without his representatives - to sign a new five-year deal in August 2015. Sundowns were aware of every word in the new contract, they demanded it. They got it.

The old contract demanded a £1.5m buy-out, which is now the fee which will have to be met by and new suitors following Dolly’s Africa XI selection.

Effectively his value - thanks to an incredible DRC decision - has risen from R10m to R22m which would be a modern South African record equal to the £1.5m record paid by Bournemouth for Malmo’s Tokelo Rantie three years ago. And we all know how that ended.

With South Africa languishing at 60 in the FIFA rankings, no English club would approach that figure - especially with Dolly failing to play anywhere near the required 80 percent of South Africa’s competitive fixtures over the past two years. A work permit is out of the question for any South African right now. At any price.

Many said Neymar’s move to Europe came a little late at 20. Dolly is nearly 24. And unless somebody looks long and hard at the PSL’s DRC - who also found against Siboniso Pa Gaxa when Kaizer Chiefs had actually tweeted about his "until 2018" contract - South Africa’s brightest star is unlikely to achieve is full potential.

What next? An appeal to SAFA and even the international Court of Arbitration for Sport. Expensive. Disruptive. Not recommended.

So here’s the verdict from one who is not frightened to speak out against corruption and injustice: the DRC are not a fair, objective body fit to judge on player contracts.

With the same people representing Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns as well as the PSL against players, justice is currently unavailable. The DRC is, as we like to say in South Africa, “captured”. 

Dolly has won all he is likely to win at Sundowns. Even if he goes overseas, the new South African coach, if he’s sensible and not guided by sinister forces like Mashaba, will have no choice but to pick South Africa’s brightest “young” talent (some would consider 24 middle-aged in football terms).

Dolly has nothing to lose. He has already had to foot a mammoth R200,000 legal bill in an unsuccessful attempt to set himself free. Remarkable that, given it was Sundowns who admitted to making the contractual “error”.

With at least two fresh bids on the table following the DRC’s bizarre decision, my advice Keagan? Go to Greece, France or wherever the footballing road takes you. South Africa doesn’t have a single player (barring the veteran Steven Pienaar at Sunderland) in any of the big leagues.

That hasn’t happened for years. It’s time for Keagan Dolly to make the break. Before it’s too late.

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