With the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers drawing nearer, former Nigerian international goalkeeper, Greg Etafia, has expressed his feelings about the tournament. Etafia, who has strong ties with South Africa, has backed Bafana Bafana to be Nigeria’s main rival in the race for the ticket to represent Africa in the Mundial.
The World Cup qualifying draw placed Nigeria and South Africa in Group C, alongside Zimbabwe, Benin, Rwanda, and Lesotho. This has sparked immense interest among football enthusiasts and neutrals alike, as both Nigeria and South Africa are considered favorites to win the group and qualify for the World Cup.
However, Etafia, who has spent a significant portion of his life in both countries, maintains a neutral stance. Born in Auchi, Edo State, Etafia gained recognition during his time at NUB Kaduna, Lobi Stars, and Plateau United. In 2003, he made a significant move to South Africa, signing with Moroka Swallows, where he spent an impressive 12 years. Even after retirement, Etafia chose to remain in South Africa, marking his 20th year in the country. Currently working as a goalkeeper coach at TS Galaxy, he previously served as the caretaker coach at Moroka Swallows.
Although Etafia’s club career was primarily based in South Africa, his international allegiance was with Nigeria, earning four caps for the Super Eagles. This dilemma regarding which country to support for the World Cup ticket reflects the complex nature of his situation.
In an interview with Sowetan Live, Etafia explained, “Definitely I am Nigerian, but I have been in SA for a very long time, and SA is my home now. I will be happy for either Nigeria or SA if they qualify… I mean, my children are growing up here in SA, and they go to school here, so I have a soft spot for this country.”
In terms of football achievements, Nigeria boasts an impressive record, having clinched the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title three times. Additionally, they have participated in the World Cup on six occasions, successfully advancing past the group stage three times. On the other hand, South Africa has had limited success, with their AFCON triumph being a singular success story. In their three attempts at the World Cup, they have yet to progress beyond the group stage.
As the World Cup qualifiers approach, football fans will be eagerly watching the performances of Nigeria and South Africa in Group C. With Greg Etafia’s unique perspective, it will be interesting to see which country ultimately secures the coveted World Cup ticket and represents Africa in the 2026 Mundial.