Jonty Mark

By Jonty Mark

Football Editor

OPINION: Foster’s mental health has to take priority over Afcon

If Foster says no, that answer has to be no, simple as that.

Lyle Foster’s earlier than expected return at English Premier League side Burnley has raised expectations that he may, after all, be able to play for Hugo Broos’ Bafana Bafana at the Africa Cup of Nations finals early next year.

Foster’s two months or so off the pitch to deal with mental health issues have clearly worked to the extent that he has featured in all of Burnley’s last three matches.

Burnley head coach Vincent Kompany has warned that Foster’s return does not mean he can fly “all over the world” which can only really refer to the possibility of the 24 year-old jetting off to South Africa and the Ivory Coast in January.


Mental health in sport has been long-overlooked, and it is brilliant that Burnley have given Foster the support he needs. After all, if you are going to give a player all the help necessary from a broken leg, there should be no difference if his or her mental health is affected
It could well be that Foster is fine playing football now in a settled environment at Burnley, but that he does not want to take the risk of flying off to a Bafana camp. What if Foster suffers a relapse of the mental health issues that were so serious he had to stop playing for Burnley?

Hugo Broos will no doubt want the best available side for his Afcon campaign, and ordinarily Foster would definitely be a part of that.

This is, after all, a regular in the Bafana set up, who is his national team’s only representative in one of Europe’s elite leagues, and who has had, especially given his health issues, an incredible start to life in the Premier League.

Broos and Kompany have a good relationship, one which surely helped Broos understand that he had to leave Foster out of his squad for the November World Cup qualifiers.

The Bafana head coach may well hope he can persuade Kompany that Foster will be fine in the Ivory Coast. But that decision, ultimately, can surely only be made by Foster in consultation with his doctors.
If Foster says no, that answer has to be no, simple as that.

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits