13 March 2019 – The Croatian football federation could soon be in a battle with their South African counterparts for the services of 20-year-old Crystal Place defender Nikola Tavares.
Tavares, who has already represented Croatia at under-18, 19 and 20 level, only in friendlies, has expressed an interest to play for South Africa rather than Croatia, according to national under-23 coach David Notoane, KickOff.com reports.
Tavares, who is captain of the English Premier League club Crystal Palace’s under-23 team, has been included in the South African under-23 squad for upcoming Olympic Games qualifiers but will need clearance and paperwork before he can join the squad.
The left-footed centre back, who was born in South Africa to a Portuguese father and a Croatian mother, trained at Wolverhampton, Middlesbrough and Brentford before signing for Crystal Palace in 2017.
Tavares pledged his allegiance to Croatia earlier and was selected for the Croatia under-18 team in 2017. He played in friendlies only for Croatia under-17 against Qatar, before playing against Italy for the Croatia under-18s in a friendly. In November 2018, he played two friendlies for the Croatia under-20 team.
Notoane says the Tavares would add a lot of value to the South Africa squad but has left it to the administration of SAFA to get the necessary information and paperwork.
“Croatia is also looming, they invited him first by the way to the under-20s. So we have a situation where I think there is something. He is a left-footed centre-back and there’s not many in the country that you can draw into from the database. He has given the commitment to avail himself, so we are checking other logistical issues in trying to win him over.”