SA quartet kick off league season in France
Bafana Bafana striker Lebo Mothiba is hoping to learn from the new arrivals at French Ligue 1 side Lille this season as he and the three other South Africans in Ligue 1 prepare to start the new campaign this weekend.
Mothiba was a revelation in the second half of the last campaign when he returned from a loan spell with Ligue 2 side Valenciennes to score the goals that would save Lille from relegation.
The club is not expecting to be in the relegation mix again this year and after his goal in a pre-season friendly against English Premier League Leicester City‚ Mothiba is brimming with confidence ahead of their season opener against Stade Rennes on Saturday night.
He is also looking forward to playing alongside new signing Loic Remy from Chelsea‚ who has also played for the likes of Marseille and Newcastle United‚ and has 30 caps for France.
“He’s a striker with great experience who has played at big clubs‚” Mothiba told his club’s website.
“I think I can learn a lot with him. In training‚ I can already see his style of play and his movement. He has already given me some advice‚ it’s really nice.”
The club has also signed vastly experienced Portuguese international defender José Fonte and young forward Jonathan Ikoné from Paris St Germain among a number of new arrivals.
“Last season was very difficult for the whole team‚” Mothiba says.
“We have learned and it will make us stronger mentally. The team was young but we have added elements of experience.”
Mothiba adds that he feels valued by coach Christophe Galtier.
“Since my return in January‚ I made great progress alongside Christophe Galtier. But it's not over‚ I want to continue to work hard‚ to give everything and to score goals. With this group and coach‚ I am happy and confident.”
South Africa’s three other players in France also start their seasons this weekend and Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter will hope for plenty of game-time from them ahead of the 2019 African Nations Cup qualifier against Libya next month.
Lebogang Phiri is expected to play a key role for Guingamp this season with club president Bertrand Desplat admitting that his acquisition ahead of the last campaign was more with this season in mind.
Guingamp face a tricky start away at Saint-Étienne on Saturday night.
Keagan Dolly had a strong finish to the 2017/18 season with Montpellier and is also expected to be a regular in this coming campaign‚ that starts with a home fixture against Dijon on Saturday.
Bongani Zungu has been the subject of interest from Olympiakos in Greece‚ but for now remains with Amiens as they start their season away at Lyon on Sunday.
He is expected to be the mainstay of their midfield again if he remains after this transfer window.