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Nov 4, 2010

Bafana legend Radebe welcomes Somma call-up

Former South Africa captain Lucas Radebe has backed Davide Somma to be big hit for Bafana Bafana, after the Leeds United striker was picked in Pitso Mosimane's 23-man squad to play the United States in a friendly next Wednesday.

Somma was born in South Africa, has Italian parentage and grew up in the USA so he is eligible to play for all three countries.

But former Bafana skipper Radebe, who also captained Leeds, says that Somma had made his choice some time ago, even though he had not been selected for any national team at the time.

"He said that he wants to play for South Africa because he was born here," Radebe told ESPNsoccernet.

Leeds legend Radebe is still closely involved with the Yorkshire club and although he never shared the playing field with Somma, he has taken a keen interest in the 25-year-old's career.

Radebe went to watch Leeds' match against Sheffield United in September as part of a tour to promote his biography Lucas: From the Streets of Soweto to Soccer Superstar and while Somma did not score in the 1-0 victory, Radebe was impressed with his performance.

"I could see that he looked strong, tough and good in the air," Radebe said. "I thought that this guy could be a possible solution to the striker problem we always seem to have. I think he will bring something different to the team.

Somma has netted seven times for Leeds since August and is their top scorer. He signed a three-year extension to his contract on Tuesday, the day before he was picked for South Africa.

Bafana Bafana coach Mosimane had been monitoring Somma and decided the friendly against USA would be the right match to try him in. Somma is one of four strikers in the squad, along with Bernard Parker, Sthembiso Ngcobo and Kermit Erasmus.

Katlego Mphela was not selected as he has just recovered from a groin injury and that means Somma is likely to get a run at some point in the game, though Mosimane does not want expectations to be too high.

"We must not give Somma a heavy load in his first game. We don't expect much from him, but for him to understand the philosophy of the team," Mosimane said.

It will be the first time South Africans get a glimpse of Somma, who spent his childhood in Edenvale - east of Johannesburg - where he played for Edenvale Football Club before moving to Florida at the age of 12.

His Italian passport opened doors for him in Europe and he signed with Perugia, although the club folded before he could play a game.

He moved to Italian minnows Pro Vasto and Olbia before returning to the United States in 2008 where he signed a development contract with the San Jose Earthquakes. He played just three matches for them and five for the reserve team before moving to England.

Somma is one of three newcomers to the South Africa side; Midfielder Matthew Pattison and defender Siyanda Xulu are also in line to earn their first caps and there are eight changes to the squad that drew 0-0 with Sierra Leone in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier last month.

The most noticeable of them is that Steven Pienaar will wear the captain's armband in place of Aaron Mokoena, who is being rested. Rubin Kazan's Macbeth Sibaya also does not feature in the side.

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