Kagisho Dikgacoi fights back and regains respect

The Bafana Bafana midfielder is beginning to re-discover the potential and form which secured his move from the PSL into English top-flight football

Every footballer has to overcome a difficult period in his career. Kagisho Dikgacoi, one of South Africa’s finest midfielders in possession and passing, completed a dream move overseas where he found himself playing sporadically which lead to losing his national place.

The 27-year-old had to find a way to regain the respect he deserved and his move to Crystal Palace paved the way for his new found success at the npower Championship side.   

After playing six games this season, Dikgacoi has already netted three goals for Crystal Palace including a great strike in his most recent outing against Charlton Athletic.

He received praise from Palace’s coach Dougie Freedman who told reporters after the game, “It was a fantastic goal.”

"He was playing against Brazil at the weekend and he said he'd picked up a few tips, it was a great strike."  

Dikgacoi’s strong build and sleek, accurate passing ability has won him many admirers. He is also able to fill different roles on the pitch, as he can adapt his game.

His unknown attacking prowess has been unlocked this season, even though he plies his trade mostly as a defensive midfielder for his national team. He has played most of his career in a more central midfield role, relying on his effective passing ability and vision. 

The midfielder’s career began at his local club Cardiff Spurs. He then moved to lower league side Bloemfontein Young Tigers. This was a humble beginning for the man, but his inherent quality and potential was spotted by a leading PSL club.  

In 2005, Digkacoi moved to Durban and joined Golden Arrows. He was a relatively unknown quantity before his move to Arrows, but he was able to command respect in the midfield, a sought after quality for most PSL sides.  

Under the guidance of Gordon Igesund, now the Bafana Bafana national coach, Digkacoi improved his game immensely and became one of the best midfielders in the PSL. His rise in stature was noticed and he was handed the captain’s armband.    

A place in the Bafana Bafana squad is the epitome of success for any South African player. Digkacoi made his national debut in 2007 against Mauritius in a COSAFA Cup match.

Initially he enjoyed a strong run in the national team, being selected for the 2008 African Cup of Nations, 2009 Confederations Cup and his most important role, as a first choice midfielder in the 2010 FIFA World Cup squad.

He was an important cog in the midfield as he could break up the play and provide his attacking players with precise passes.  

With national duty comes international exposure and Dikgacoi would soon find himself on the minds of some popular foreign clubs.    

Dikgacoi made a life changing move when he decided to join Fulham FC in 2009. Often South African players struggle to make an impact in international leagues and return home in order to play regular football and develop their talents.

Bernard Parker and Kermit Erasmus are two young promising talents who could not make a name for themselves in overseas leagues. Footballers require game time in order to expand their skill range.  

Bench warming is too often the result for home grown South African footballers. Dikgacoi suffered a similar fate after he was targeted and bought by the English Premiership side.

He was accepted at the club after a successful trial and played his first game against Tottenham on the 4th of October 2009. Dikgacoi only lasted forty one minutes before slapping Scott Parker and receiving his marching orders. This disastrous beginning was merely an omen for what was to come.  

The midfielder only made fifteen unimpressive appearances in the 2009-2010 season for Fulham, scoring no goals and also providing no assists. He struggled to make an impact and convince his new employers that he was up to the Premier League standard.

He had to fight for his place in the Fulham team and eventually pleaded with Roy Hodgson for a loan move. He was desperate for match fitness and game time. He wanted a chance to prove he could still perform on a consistent basis and add value.  

However he lost his place in the national side following the World Cup, due to his lack of game time and performances on the pitch. The player’s golden period seemed to be waning and he had to find a solution.

When Mark Hughes took over as Fulham manager, Dikgacoi was seen as surplus to requirements and only made a single appearance before being loaned to Crystal Palace. He was given his wish for a move to a club where he could be guaranteed consistent football.  

Here he started to settle in to life in London, making forty appearances over the next two seasons, scoring three goals and making two assists. He was beginning to rebuild his career which had lost its momentum at Fulham.

He has been able to find consistent game time at the Eagles and has looked to improve on his attacking play, which has been evident in his scoring run this season. Most importantly, he is once again seen as a vital addition to the npower Championship squad.  

He completed his move to the Eagles at the beginning of this season, when Fulham coach Martin Jol could not guarantee him game time at Fulham. The successful loan move is now permanent and Dikgacoi can focus on improving his already impressive value at the club.    

Dougie Freeman believes that the player has adjusted to his new role admirably.

"He [Dikgacoi] has done very well this season, we had a good chat this summer about releasing one of the midfielders more than last season,” Freeman told the club’s official website.

“We set up a little bit different now in terms of the two out-and-out wingers, so I think more balls will be coming into the box.

“Therefore releasing a centre midfielder, whether it be Owen Garvan or KG, I think, has worked for us. He's grasped that and he's doing exactly what we ask of him."

Dikgacoi has taken it upon himself to develop his game further and to put his initial lack of progress while playing at Fulham behind him. He has overcome what seemed like a disastrous move to England, with his tenacity and willingness to find a solution.  

The player’s future has a strong direction. He has regained his spot in the national side under his former coach Gordon Igesund and is looking to help Crystal Palace achieve promotion into the Premier League next season. He has gained some kind of redemption.

His ability to adapt his style of play, coupled with a strong passing ability will help him to continue his success in England.

He is one of the strongest South African midfielders available to Gordon Igesund and he will probably form part of the 2013 African Cup of Nations plans for the Bafana Bafana coach.