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Dolly admits he tried to prove a point when Baxter called him to Bafana while he wasn't playing

19 May 2020 - 13:12 By Marc Strydom
Keagan Dolly, who plays for Montpellier in the French Lique1, stretches during the Bafanaa Bafana training session at Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban September 3 2018.
Keagan Dolly, who plays for Montpellier in the French Lique1, stretches during the Bafanaa Bafana training session at Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban September 3 2018.
Image: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Keagan Dolly says that in his two previous Bafana Bafana call-ups from ex-coach Stuart Baxter where he was lacking match fitness his breakdowns came from pushing himself too hard to prove he was worthy of being drafted into the national team.

Baxter took some stick for calling up Dolly – who has endured an injury plagued two years that have sidelined him at Ligue 1 club Montpellier – to the squad for the Nations Cup qualifier against Libya in March 2019‚ and then the Cosafa Cup in Durban in June that year.

On both occasions Dolly had just come back from injuries at his club‚ and been lacking match practise.

For the match against Libya‚ the clinching game that got Bafana to Egypt 2019‚ Baxter called Dolly and Bongani Zungu even though they had both recently come back from injuries‚ saying he hoped they might be able to get them into shape for the crucial game.

For the Cosafa Cup in Durban‚ Dolly hoped to use that tournament to get some form of match fitness for the Nations Cup finals‚ starting later that month.

“I wanted to be there with the team [at Afcon]. When I was at home and watching the boys play well against Egypt I felt like I missed out‚” Dolly told an online press conference of the SA Football Journalists Association (Safja)‚ referring to Bafana’s dramatic 1-0 quarterfinal shock of the hosts at Cairo International Stadium.

“But myself and Stuart had a very good relationship‚ and he knew what he’d get from me if I was fully fit. And to be fair‚ when he did call me up I was fully fit – it’s just that I wasn’t playing enough.

“The Libya camp‚ I was fully fit‚ I went to training as normal. But the first session I tried to do too much.

“I tried to prove to the coaches that it wasn’t a fluke that coach Stuart called me up even though I wasn’t playing. But then I did too much and I pulled my hamstring.”

Dolly confirmed what Baxter said at the time – that the player was the one who requested to play at Cosafa to try to reach match fitness‚ and stand a chance of being in the 2019 Nations Cup squad.

“With the Cosafa‚ I felt like in order for me to really have a chance to make the Afcon team I had to get some game time‚” the ex-Mamelodi Sundowns left midfielder said.

“I spoke to my agent [Paul Mitchell] about it‚ and to my family‚ and it was basically my decision to go to the Cosafa.

“Unfortunately two weeks before Cosafa I had a small niggle on my groin before I left Montpellier‚ but then they put me on two weeks’ rest to get ready for the tournament [Cosafa].

“The same thing happened. When coach Stuart came to Durban to have a look at one of our sessions I wanted to do too much to show him that I was ready.

“And I think‚ every time when I had an opportunity to just be my normal self I just wanted to do too much‚ instead of being my normal self‚ to prove to people that‚ even though I wasn’t playing in France I was ready to play for Bafana.

“And I have to take that upon myself‚ and just grow‚ and learn from my mistakes from the past.”

Dolly‚ after a promising first season in 2017-18 at Montpellier‚ where he played 20 league and cup games‚ has had a torrid time with a variety of injuries since‚ managing just 11 first team appearances in the two seasons since then.