NELSPRUIT, Jan 25 (Reuters) - On any given weekend, Dean Furman would be toiling away in the anonymity of the third tier of English football but even if he had not been picked to play in the African Nations Cup, this Sunday would have been his time in the spotlight.
Furman has a potential career-changing game when his hosts South Africa take on Morocco in Durban in a decisive group match at the tournament, offering a stage to impress and win the attention of bigger clubs.
But had he missed out on selection he might still have had the same opportunity - thousands of kilometres away in England.
While the 24-year-old likely wins his eighth cap for South Africa on Sunday, his struggling League One club Oldham Athletic host Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Boundary Park - a match that will command similar worldwide exposure.
Furman was catapulted into the international spotlight after a man of the match display on Wednesday as the host country revived their tournament hopes by beating Angola 2-0.
“It’s like a dream come true to me, it’s incredible,” he said of his participation in a major international tournament.
“Just to be involved in the first game (against Cape Verde Islands) was unbelievable, and to play my first game (against Angola) was really awesome. It’s every player’s dream to play in front of a crowd like that, it was just awesome,” he said in a round of interviews with the South African media.
It has been a whirlwind six months for Furman, born in Cape Town but who moved to England at a young age. He has been in South Africa’s sights since he was an apprentice at Chelsea, and called up first in 2008. But it took four years before he won a first cap against Brazil last September.
The chance to play on such a prestigious stage is not lost on Furman but had he stayed home it might not have been an opportunity lost as England’s beloved cup competition also presents great possibilities.
“Careers can be defined in a single FA Cup game,” Oldham manager Paul Dickov told reporters.
“I’ve seen it before where people from lower or non-league clubs have done well in a cup game, got a lot of publicity and ended up getting themselves a move.” (firstname.lastname@example.org +27828257807 Messaging email@example.com)