Africa Cup of Nations 2013 – Dean Furman – South Africa and Oldham Athletic

On New Year’s Day, he was picking up a booking in the slightly industrial surroundings of the breezeblock jungle that is Scunthorpe United’s Glanford Park. Less than three weeks later, this Saturday will see Dean Furman run out in front of thousands of fanatical South Africa fans at the National Stadium in Johannesburg.

The contrast is vast. But the Oldham Athletic midfielder will take it all in his stride. Whether Furman is participating in the rough and tumble of a League One relegation battle or the carnival atmosphere of an Africa Cup of Nations on home soil, he has developed an attractive attribute – complete dedication to the cause.

Despite being born in Cape Town, South Africa’s second-most populous city, Furman came to England to forge a football career. Determination though was not enough to persuade Chelsea to hand him a professional contract in his late teenage years.

Furman instead headed north of the border to Rangers where he enjoyed a successful period in the youth and reserve setups. Those impressive performances finally earned him a first full-time deal and he made his Scottish Premier League debut in 2008.

His swift rise through the ranks of the Scottish giants caught the eye of the then-Bafana Bafana manager Joel Santana, who called him up to represent his country for the first time just three months after his professional debut. With the World Cup heading to South Africa less than two years later, Furman undoubtedly believed he had an outside chance of making the tournament on home soil.

He was an unused substitute in the friendly against Australia though and, by the time the game had come around, had been loaned out to League Two club Bradford City.

After returning to Rangers on the back of a notable spell at the Bantams, he was offered a new contract. Instead, Furman headed for Oldham.

At the Latics he has been given the platform to perform. The shining light of a struggling side, he has so far made over 100 appearances for the Boundary Park club, and shown a consistency which has alerted Bafana Bafana and their latest manager Gordon Igesund.

Furman has become a central figure in Igesund’s revamped South Africa side, finally making his debut last year in a friendly against Brazil. The stalemate with Algeria this week saw him earn a sixth cap and if Bafana Bafana wish to emulate the Africa Cup of Nations win of 1996, also in on home soil, you would think Furman would be a vital component.

Spare a thought for Furman’s club though. Four points above the League One drop zone, they now face a month without one of their star men, starting with a trip to Coventry City.

And so while Furman’s relegation-threatened teammates will be travelling down the M6, the man himself will be preparing himself for the attentions of a continent in party mood. New Year’s Day in the breezeblock jungle, it most certainly will not be.

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