Keagan Dolly urges South African footballers to play abroad

Keagan Dolly
Bafana Bafana midfielder Keagan Dolly has moved from South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns to Montpellier in France.

Montpellier midfielder Keagan Dolly has urged more South African footballers to leave the country's Premier Soccer League (PSL) and play abroad.

The Bafana Bafana international moved from 2016 African Champions Mamelodi Sundowns to French side Montpellier in January for a fee of around $2 million, making it one of the most expensive transfers in South African history.

The 24-year-old, one of very few South African players to move abroad, has quickly embraced the challenges and is settling well in France.

"If you want to develop and test yourself among the best footballers in world football, then I would encourage more South African players to go abroad," Dolly told BBC Sport.

"I felt like I wanted to challenge myself, embrace new culture, new football and face something completely different.

"You look at Steven Pienaar [former Everton and Tottenham midfielder] who has spent over 15 years in Europe; you can only draw inspiration from him.

"I feel like I am representing my country in France so I just try to do my best so that I can open doors for more South African players," said Dolly.

Last weekend, Bafana Bafana beat Nigeria 2-0 in their opening Group E qualifier for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations to pick up their first ever official competitive win over the Super Eagles.

Dolly starred in Uyo with a squad largely comprising of PSL stars and six overseas-based stars like Andile Jali, Tokelo Rantie, Kermit Erasmus, Bongani Zungu and Lebogang Phiri.

The former Sundowns player believes that win in Nigeria coupled with more players going to Europe will further help narrow the gap between South Africa and other countries like Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Ghana.

"Don't get me wrong, South African players have benefited immensely from playing in the Caf Champions League and Confederations Cup, but we have to change the mentality that we struggle to settle in Europe," Dolly said.

"Our players must be mentally strong, if your mentality isn't right you won't succeed anyway and that goes with life as well.

"You need to be prepared for challenges and I think with South Africa we tend to be complacent, enjoy living at home where the spotlight is on us, so we don't want to leave the comfort zone.

Steven Pienaar
South Africa's Steven Pienaar played extensively across Europe, including two spells with English Premier League side Everton

Dolly, who has scored two goals in nine appearances for his country, captained South Africa at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

"I think those of us playing abroad can only encourage the young ones like we were encouraged by people who did it before us.

"Take a look at the African countries playing in the World Cups and competing for the Nations Cup title, to challenge them we must sacrifice like their players who are exposed to tough leagues and competitions in Europe."

Dolly played in all but one of Sundowns' African Champions League matches last season including the two-legged final against Zamalek.

He started his career at Westbury Arsenal School of Excellence and joined Sundowns' academy in 2005 before embarking on a stint with Ajax Cape Town in 2011.

Dolly returned to the Brazilians in 2015, and helped them to a domestic cup title (the Telkom Knockout), the South African Premiership title as well as the Caf Champions League during a remarkable 18-month campaign.

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