Former Bafana Bafana defender Matthew Booth has reflected on the difficult times he had with the national team, how he was ignored when he was in Russia, and his disappointment on being a benchwarmer at the 2010 World Cup.
Speaking to Rob Delport in an in-depth interview in Edition 10 of iDiski Times, Booth says it was a very frustrating time for him when he was an absentee from the national team.
Having made his national team debut in 1998, the Sydney Olympic team captain went off to play in Russia, first with Rostov, and then with Krylia Sovetov, but during his peak he was largely ignored by the Bafana selectors, and earned just one cap between 2003 and 2007.
However when Joel Santana was Bafana coach, Booth finally returned to the team, and became a popular player with the supporters. He was so popular, he was often used to promote the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and was even part of the draw process.
But unfortunately at the event itself Booth missed out playing in all three of Bafana games, watching from the bench.
Booth earned just 28 caps for the senior team.
“Ja, I must say it left a bitter taste in my mouth,” Booth said in Edition 10 of iDiski Times.
“I made my debut in 98 for Bafana, after the Olympics, Carlos Queiroz took a liking to me and included me in the squad. I remember playing qualification games for Mali, for the Nations Cup there in 2002, qualification games for the World Cup in Japan and Korea. But I was just on the fringe of the squad, you know, I wasn’t quite established yet.”
“I played a lot of Cosafa Cup games. And then managed to get into the World Cup squad in 2002, only because Mark Fish got injured. And then on the trip there, getting injured myself and getting replaced by Jacob Lekgetho, the late Jacob Lekgetho, and then I got the opportunity to go to Russia.”
“And I stopped getting Bafana call ups, for whatever reason, and for the whole six years that I was there. I was concentrating on this new adventure and felt rather bitter about the whole South Africa thing. Playing some of my best football, ending up captaining Krylia Sovetov, which for a foreigner to captain a Russian team is like virtually unheard of, it didn’t happen back then.”
“And only because journalists like yourself started to ask where I was, especially when South Africa for the first time failed to qualify for a Nation’s Cup, did I get an opportunity to come back into the squad under (Joel) Santana and when I got that opportunity, I won two man of the matches in a row.”
“One of them was Ghana, I think the other one was Guinea. They were friendly games, but I made sure that I took my opportunity, you know that I was ready, I was amped up, and I wanted to get back into the team. Obviously, the World Cup was coming up so that was a huge aim and objective for me, to have that on my CV.”
“And I never looked back then, because of those performances. The problem came after the Confederations Cup, after having played all of those games and had a good tournament ,was when Santana got fired and was replaced by (Carlos Alberto) Pareira.”
“And he unfortunately had a different view on me. And I tried my best to change his mind but wasn’t able to. And, unfortunately sat on a very cold bench during the World Cup.”
The full interview with Matthew Booth is available in Edition 10 of iDiski Times.