Footballers around the world dream of playing on the biggest stages and the Uefa Champions League is no exception. In this feature, FARPost looks back on the South Africans that have played in Europe’s premium club competition in its current form since it was rebranded in 1992.
In the 90s, ‘Rhoo’ was in the books of English side Leeds United and played in the competition, featuring in 10 matches.
The former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper turned out for Dutch sides Heerenveen and Ajax Amsterdam, making a total 12 appearances in Europe’s elite club competition.
He was an important part of Olympique Marseile’s campaign in the 1999/2000 season, forming part of a defence which kept a clean sheet as they defeated defending champions Manchester United 1-0.
In 2000, the former Bafana Bafana midfielder moved from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United, where he got the opportunity to play in the Champions League. Fortune played 27 times in this competition, scoring 2 goals for the ‘Red Devils’.
Nicknamed ‘Bobo’, Lekgetho, who passed on in 2008, played for Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow between 2001 and 2005. He played 20 games in the Uefa Champions League.
In the 2001/02 season, Zuma made his Champions League playing for Danish side, FC Copenhagen, against Italy’s Lazio. In all, ‘Rhee’ made 6 appearances, scoring 3 goals. He left FC Copenhagen to join German side, Arminia Bielefeld.
The tall striker was with Swiss side FC Basel when he made a couple of appearances around 2002. Many will remember him from his days at Manning Rangers, where he scored many headers.
Bafana Bafana’s all-time leading goalscorer with 31 goals remains the only South African to win the Uefa Champions League, which happened in 2004 while he was at Portuguese side, FC Porto. At the time, McCarthy was coached by Jose Mourinho. McCarthy played 28 games in this competition and scored 9 goals, including a brace against Manchester United in the Round of 16.
The centre-back was at Greek side Panathinaikos when he played 14 matches in the Champions League. He faced the likes of Glasgow Rangers, Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona. He was with Panathinaikos from 2003 – 2010.
‘Schillo’ had some memorable encounters in this competition especially while he was at Ajax Amsterdam and came up against the likes of Patrick Vieira of Arsenal.
DID YOU KNOW?
With 29 appearances, Pienaar is the South African who’s played the most games in the Uefa Champions League. His first game was for Ajax against French outfit Lyon in 2002.
From 2002, the KwaZulu Natal-born defensive midfielder played for Norwegian side Rosenborg and later on was with Russian side, Rubin Kazan. Sibaya made four appearances in the Champions League, all as a substitute.
In 2002, Mnguni was transferred from Mamelodi Sundowns to Russian side, Lokomotiv Moscow and later on to Rostov. The midfielder played in 4 Champions League games, even having a memorable battle with Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid.
Elrio van Heerden
The winger was at Danish side FC Copenhagen when he made his only appearance in the 2004/05, against FC Gorica from Slovenia.
Between 2007 – 2012, the left back was at Israeli side, Maccabi Haifa. This is where he got to represent the club in the Champions League, featuring in 12 matches.
In 2008, Moon landed at Greek side Panathinaikos after joining from Ajax Cape Town. He enjoyed 3 appearances in the Champions League, but also played 3 in the qualifiers.
‘Cream’ first experienced the Champions League stage while at Ajax Amsterdam in 2011, with his first two appearances coming against Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Serero finished with 9 appearances.
The ex-Bafana Bafana right-back was with Belgian side, Genk. He went on to make 7 appearances in this competition.
Relatively unknown, Smart was with Latvian side Skonto when he played in a couple of Champions League games in the 2011/12 season.
Ndlovu was at Azerbaijan side in the 2017/18 season and it was his goal that sent the club to the group stage, which was the first time in Qarabag’s history that they made it to this stage. He played 4 matches.
The ‘Young Lion’ is the latest South African to feature in the competition, doing so with Belgian club Club Brugge. Like a few of his countrymen on this list, the Bafana Bafana star has played against Real Madrid.
He played 3 matches in the qualifiers and 3 more matches in the actual competition. This may go a long way in helping him secure a work permit to play for his English club, Brighton.
By Tiyani wa ka Mabasa