SA starlet makes Portuguese league debut after recovering from COVID-19

SA Under-20 international Sphephelo Sithole made his senior debut for Belenenses on Wednesday.

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South African midfielder Sphephelo Sithole was a late substitute in his club, Belenenses’ 1-1 draw against SC Braga in Portugal’s Primera Liga on Wednesday night.

The 21-year-old was making his first senior appearance for the club, just weeks after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Primera Liga debut for Sphephelo Sithole 

He was one of two South Africans who featured in the fixture, after countryman Thibang Phete made the starting line-up.

While Phete had a 90-minute run, Sithole featured for only 14 minutes, coming in for defender Ricardo Ferreira.

Following the encounter, the player took to social media to express his delight at being handed a run in the first team.

“I’m very happy to have made my professional debut and for helping the team earn a point in the match. Now let’s move on to the next game,” the 21-year-old tweeted.

Sphephelo Sithole

SA players in Portugal 

Portugal is one of the few European countries boasting a healthy contingent of South African players.

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DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – JUNE 06: Luther Singh during the South African national men’s soccer team media open day at Moses Mabhida Peoples Park 1 on June 06, 2019 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)

Sithole and Phete are just two of four South Africans in the country’s top flight, with Bafana forward Luther Singh the most prominent name in the group.

Singh, now 22, has turned out in 20 league matches for Moreirense, on loan from Braga.

Relegation-threatened Vitoria Setubal accounts for the other one in defender Nkanyiso Shinga, who has been with their Under-23s since being promoted from the Under-19 side in July 2019.

With Singh as the exception, all these players are graduates of the KwaZulu-Natal Football Academy.

Portugal’s lower leagues boast over a dozen South African players, including former Wits rising star Kobamelo Kodisang, who is now with Braga’s B side.

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