AFCON 2023: South African club backs Super Eagles goalkeeper ahead of semi-final against Bafana Bafana

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A South African premier league club has sparked controversy by declaring their support for Nigeria in the upcoming AFCON 2023 semi-final clash against Bafana Bafana on Wednesday.

Following their announcement that they will be rooting for Nigeria in their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final matchup against Bafana Bafana on Wednesday, South African premier league team Chippa United has sparked controversy.

At the Stade de la Paix in Bouake, Nigeria and South Africa square off in the first semi-final for a spot in Sunday’s final. Chippa United chairman Siviwe Chippa Mpengesi has publicly endorsed the Super Eagles over his native country.

His choice is motivated by his desire to show support for Stanley Nwabali, the club’s goalkeeper, who has been excellent in between the posts for Nigeria during the continental competition.

“As the chairman of Chippa United FC and as a proud South African, I find myself in a unique position during this AFCON 2023 tournament in that our very won Nigeria international Stanley Nwabali has been a revelation; his performance for the Nigeria national team has caught the eyes of the globe, earning him and our club international acclaim,” Mpengesi said through a club statement on Tuesday.

“With Stanley’s rising profile and the international profile it brings to Chippa United FC, the benefits have been nothing but positive. Therefore, I and Chippa United FC, stand behind our player Stanley Nwabali and the Nigeria Super Eagles tomorrow (Wednesday) against South Africa Bafana Bafana. We wish the Super Eagles all the best.”

Considering that Bafana Bafana is just two wins away from winning their second AFCON after winning the first in 1996, Mpengesi’s remarks caused some controversy in South Africa.

In goal for Nigeria, Nwabali has been outstanding, making some incredible saves. He is competing with Wednesday’s opponent, Ronwen Williams, for the AFCON 2023 Golden Glove, as the two are locked on four clean sheets. Williams is also having a fantastic campaign.

On social media, some Bafana Bafana supporters have already dubbed Mpengesi “anti-South Africa,” but he doesn’t seem to be phased by the criticism.

The Chippa United manager, however, was still full of praise for his country, praising Premier Soccer League opponents Mamelodi Sundowns and South Africa coach Hugo Broos for their audacious choices and their significant contributions to the national team’s success.

“Acknowledgement is also given to coach Hugo Broos who boldly trusted our domestic players, unlike some previous Bafana Bafana national team coaches who preferred to select players who played abroad as bench warmers instead, to represent our national team,” he added.

“My commendation also goes out to Mamelodi Sundowns FC and their technical staff for their outstanding contribution, highlighted by the inclusion of eight players in the Bafana Bafana starting line-up.”