Hlatshwayo Urges Okon to Choose South Africa Over Nigeria

SuperSport United defender Thulani Hlatshwayo has voiced his opinion on why rising star Ime Okon should opt to represent South Africa over Nigeria in international football.

Johannesburg-born central defender Ime Okon has made a notable impact in his debut Premier Soccer League season with SuperSport United, quickly establishing himself as a regular starter. The 20-year-old’s impressive performances even earned him the captain’s armband in a Caf Confederation Cup match against Mordern Future earlier this month.

With dual eligibility to play for both Nigeria and South Africa, Okon has yet to publicly announce his international allegiance. However, Bafana Bafana legend Andre Arendse believes Okon has the potential to surpass the achievements of iconic defender Lucas Radebe.

Hlatshwayo, speaking to reporters, emphasized the benefits of Okon choosing to represent South Africa. He pointed out the challenges Okon might face in securing a place in the highly competitive Nigerian national team, suggesting that to break into the Nigerian squad, Okon would likely need to play in Europe. Instead, Hlatshwayo highlighted the opportunities available for Okon within the South African setup, particularly given the current situation of Bafana Bafana’s defensive options.

The experienced defender underscored Okon’s South African roots, highlighting his upbringing, education, and club development in the country. Despite Okon’s familial ties to Nigeria, Hlatshwayo stressed Okon’s identification as South African, including his fluency in Afrikaans.

Addressing the banter within the team during international fixtures between South Africa and Nigeria, Hlatshwayo playfully mentioned his stance on assisting Okon depending on his choice of national team representation.

Looking at the broader context, Okon’s path to breaking into the Bafana Bafana squad faces significant competition, with several defenders solidifying their positions. However, Hlatshwayo’s encouragement suggests that Okon’s development and contributions to South African football could lead to a promising future with the national team.

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