Kagisho Dikgacoi waited a long time for his Fulham debut, but the end to it was so quick and unflattering that he would have wished it had been delayed a while longer.
With just three minutes to half-time in last week’s match against West Ham United, the midfielder’s first start in a Fulham shirt concluded with a red card that his coach Roy Hodgson felt was a result of naivete.
Moments earlier, he was involved in a tussle for possession with Scott Parker and, to his surprise, the Hammers player charged towards him as play continued elsewhere.
“He strode towards me and I used my hand to block him. The referee didn’t see the incident, but the linesman did. We each got a yellow card, but I was shocked when the ref flashed a red card seconds after he consulted the linesman. It was on 42 minutes,” Dikgacoi said.
Shocked and disappointed, Dikgacoi got off the field, his first official English Premiership match cut short. But as he joined Bafana at their training base here ahead of Saturday noon’s friendly against Norway, he promised to fight back.
Not the three-match ban that comes with a sending off, but to force his way back into Fulham’s first XI.
“We won’t appeal the red card because I’m told according to the rules you can’t put your hand above someone’s chest towards the neck (a picture shows Dikgacoi’s hand directed into Parker’s face), which is what I did during that incident. But I have to start all over again because three matches is a long time out.”
Having taken all of eight matches to make his first league start, Dikgacoi could find he’s fallen further back in the pecking order.
He admitted his debut was delayed by a battle to adjust to English football’s pace and physicality, but the former Golden Arrows midfielder said he is doing better off the pitch, although the idea of not being with his family is tough.
Strangely, Dikgacoi has yet to visit his England-based Bafana teammates, such as Portsmouth’s Aaron Mokoena, Everton’s Steven Pienaar and Blackburn Rovers duo Benni McCarthy and Elrio van Heerden.
The immediate task for Dikgacoi is to ensure Bafana go back on the winning track.
“I don’t think we should be in this situation considering how well we’ve played in recent months. But when results are not going your way, people are always going to complain. The only thing to stop this is to start winning. We’ll give it our best shot but sometimes things don’t go your way.”