Spare a thought for Elrio van Heerden, the South African attacking midfielder whose promising career has been derailed by a spate of injuries and, to borrow a phrase from the African diction, ‘a spell of bad luck.'
Introduced into the South Africa side by Stuart Baxter in 2005, van Heerden's selection in the national side was greeted with little fanfare, presumably because Bafana Bafana had just failed to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany and people were losing patience with their under-achieving national team.
Indeed, his international bow which ended in a 3-2 defeat to Senegal was almost completely overshadowed by Baxter's resignation after the match.
"Stuart was a good coach and I'm grateful to him because he gave me my first chance," he told FIFA.com. "He believed in my ability, but it's unfortunate that things didn't go his way," he continued. "But that is all in the past now, we have to concentrate on the future."
Now van Heerden wants to be part of Joel Santana's FIFA Confederations Cup squad, but with places in the South Africa squad at a premium, the former FC Copenhagen and FC Brugge star is banking on his improved form, and maybe, a reversal of fortunes.
Recently, Santana told a press conference that he only wants to select players who show love for the South African jersey, but Van Heerden promises not only love but, dedication and commitment to the cause.
"South Africa is my country, when I play for the national team, I play with so much passion," he continued. "I don't just want to be part of the team, I want to play. The Confederations Cup is a huge moment for this country and like any other player, I want to be part of history,"
For a while now, he has been in the shadows of more illustrious players in the South African team like Steven Pienaar and rising star, Teko Modise, but the Port Elizabeth-born player is determined to cement his place in a side that will be shouldering the expectations of 44 million supporters at the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup in June.
Despite being one of the side's best performers in an otherwise mediocre CAF African Cup of Nations in Ghana 2008 for South Africa, van Heerden once again finds himself having to prove himself worth once again. A few months ago, he was seemingly at his peak of his powers and attracting interest from a host of clubs. Yet, injuries struck again, keeping him on the sidelines for another agonisingly long period.
"I was doing well, I was playing more regular in the national team," he recalled. "But again, I got injured, I was out for a while and that means that I have to work my way up again. The competition will be tough because most of the guys want to play in the Confederations Cup. But for me, I just have to work hard and impress the coach."
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