The Buck Is Now with Collin

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By Confidence Musariri WINDHOEK The bid to find the natural soul of the Brave Warriors has dramatically changed hands. A fortnight ago, all eyes were on an unrepentant Razundara Tjikuzu who failed the nation when it mattered most, during the Cosafa Castle cup. However, the next seven days will see another son of the soil, in Collin Benjamin, making an emotional return to don the Brave Warriors jersey in a friendly against Bafana Bafana. The bulk of the foreign-based players who dwindled against Seychelles and split the Brave Warriors’ camp with some questionable behaviour have been retained by coach, Ben Bamfuchile, except funky-boy Tjikuzu. This is an indication of the Zambian’s professionalism as he awaits an NFA hearing on the players. However, attention will now shift on Benjamin whom the coach has not met ever since their brushing shoulders in the tunnels of the 1998 Burkina Faso Africa Nations’ Cup. Ironically, it was against South Africa that Benjamin would rise to the occasion, back in the days; hence, it comes as no surprise to learn that this friendly match is the brainchild of the player’s academy, the Collin Benjamin Football Academy. After playing his part in Hamburg’s impressive march in the Germany Bundesliga for the last four years, Benjamin has always dreamt of a ceremonial return to his motherland. Hamburg surrendered the league title to Bayern Munich on a razor-thin edge, last season, where Benjamin has donned the number 25 jersey in 80 appearances, since 2003. New Era gathers that the impish forward had initially asked both South Africa and Namibia to have the match this weekend before being informed of FIFA’s international day of friendlies. Perhaps the player wanted a ceremonial birthday present as he turned 28 on the 3rd of this month. With 13 international caps, Benjamin has not netted any goal for the national team but it has been his heart for the Brave Warriors that makes the amiable difference. A player of astute discipline, Benjamin has been asked by his club Hamburg to extend his stay with another year to his four-year contract. The right-footed midfielder, whose obituary fans could have assumed was written by Letu Shatimwene’s blinding performance during the Cosafa, has scored nine crucial goals for his club so far. He will thus arrive on Monday with a cocky assurance that despite Letu Shatimwene being an off-the pitch nuisance, the Tigers’ midfielder will always be a threat for a permanent midfield position, as the two play identical roles. “The only difference is that Collins can play anywhere, anytime, any position which will be available because he is an all-rounder,” said scout Jakes Amaning, who is also representing Shatimwene overseas. The time Collins was still at Civics life was proving relatively hard for the player and his plight worsened as he became one of the few local pioneers to invade the European football territory. The midfielder was already raising eyebrows with his sensational ball skills, although he had to contend with playing for the 6th league in the Bundesliga. It took the midfielder two years to get into the real Bundesliga and today a lot of local players and football personalities who have traveled overseas have either been flown or accommodated by the player, or they have been given some pocket money to travel around Europe. “All for the love of the game,” Amaning, who runs Benjamin’s football academy, said modestly. Fans may vividly remember the hollow blunder three years ago, when Benjamin gave a back-pass to goalkeeper Danzyl Bruwer against Morocco. The goalkeeper had misjudged the blind pass and the whole stadium froze as the ball went past Bruwer’s legs into a welcoming net. The scoreline never changed and Benjamin never played for the national team ever since. Strutting and preening across the turf, Benjamin had removed his number 7 jersey with agony, and seemingly had written an epitaph to himself and the Brave Warriors. Now Benjamin has returned. He has to be credited for masterminding next Wednesday’s friendly match which will also have South Africa’s all-time bests. The Collin Benjamin Academy will foot much of the bills for this friendly, which includes bringing Bafana into the country. Of late there has been emphasis on Bamfuchile building the team around quality players, but Benjamin adds the missing link in the bid to resurrect the Brave Warriors’ discipline and determination .The Brave Warriors captain, Henrico Botes, has tried to put that into practice but the mere fact that he plays in South Africa, has seen some European based players blushing his ideologies during the Cosafa Cup, hence some answered back on the coach. The local players who have been in camp since the 6th of this month are becoming extremely close-knit both on and off the pitch, and Benjamin’s return to the national team will give him the opportunity to learn from, and enjoy the company of, his new team-mates. Last night, Benjamin was expected to feature in his team’s Champions League first leg qualifier against Spanish side, Osasuna. Brave Warriors Goalkeepers – Athiel Mbaha and Esau Tjiuoro Defenders – Garry Kheister, Michael Pienaar, Jeremia Baisako, Nelson Geingob and Franklin April Midfielders – Jamunavandu Ngatjizeko, Rudi Louw, Nelson Akwenye, Riaan Cloete, Freedom Puriza, Letu Shatimuene, Heinrich Isaacks, Victor Helu, Brian Brendell and Brian Gurirab Strikers – Johannes Seibeb and Rudolph Bester Foreign-based players: Sydney Plaatjies, Meraai Swartbooi, George Hummel, Robert Nauseb, Costa Kheiseb, Hartman Toromba, Quinton Jacobs, Richard Gariseb, Henrico Botes and Collin Benjamin Bafana squad: Goalkeepers: Calvin Marlin (Mamelodi Sundowns), Rowen Fernandez (Kaizer Chiefs) Defenders: Ricardo Katza (SuperSport United), Nasief Morris (Panathinaikos), Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn Rovers), Vuyo Mere (Sundowns), Cyril Nzama (Chiefs), Bradley Carnell (Karlsruhe), Benson Mhlongo (Sundowns), Tshepo Masilela (Benoni United) Midfielders: Steven Pienaar (Borrusia Dortmund), Siyabonga Nkosi (Chiefs), Surprise Moriri (Sundowns), Quinton Fortune (Bolton Wanderers), Macbeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Josta Dladla (Sundowns) and Dillon Sheppard (Sundowns) Strikers: Benni McCarthy (Blackburn), Glen Salmon (Groningen, Holland), Gert Schalkwyk (Chiefs) and Katleho Mashego (SuperSport)