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banner Friday, 23 February, 2001, 18:20 GMT
Profile: Pierre Issa of South Africa
Pierre Issa of South Africa
Issa conceded some own goals at the France World Cup
It took the eye of an infatuated woman to set Pierre Issa on an unlikely route to an international career with South Africa.

He has now been capped 28 times and some people tout him as a future captain of the country's national side.

The tall and lanky new signing for the English Premiership side Chelsea, is something of a citizen of the world.

Born in Johannesburg of Lebanese parents, he was brought up in France and holds the citizenship of all three countries.


He has become a regular player at international level, helping 'Bafana Bafana' to third place at last year's African Nations Cup finals
It was South Africa, however, who got to him first, just after the young defender had made the move from French second division side Dunkerque to the intimidating atmosphere of Marseille's Stade Velodrome.

Accidental invitation

He was on holiday in Johannesburg when a bold lady flirtatiously walked up to him at a shopping mall and enquired: "You look like a football player?"

"Yes, in fact, I am," was Issa's response.

The woman, who was a secretary at the hotel where South Africa's national team were staying, told the then coach Clive Barker on her return to the hotel.

Pierre Issa of South Africa
Issa is a citizen of three countries
Issa was promptly invited to train with the team and a year later, in November 1997, won his first cap against Germany in a friendly in Dusseldorf.

By the time, the World Cup came around, he was a regular in the team and faced the prospect of playing at his home ground against the country in which he was raised in the opening game of the competition.

But South Africa's match with France in Marseille turned into a nightmare for Issa, who scored two unlucky own goals in the 3-0 defeat in a performance far removed from the fairytale many hoped for.

But, to his credit, he refused to let the setback affect him.

Unmoved

He has become a regular player at international level, helping 'Bafana Bafana' to third place at last year's African Nations Cup finals and seemingly now en route to a second successive World Cup finals appearance.


In 1999, Issa was the first South African international to play in a European club competition final
In 1999, Issa was the first South African international to play in a European club competition final but was again on the wrong side of a 3-0 hiding as Parma beat Marseille to win the Uefa Cup.

In recent matches, South Africa have pushed him into a midfield role.

And there was a massive cheer last month, when he came close to scoring his first goal for his country after an uncharacteristic, and somewhat lumbering, run down the wing in the World Cup qualifier against Burkina Faso at Rustenburg.

Issa left South Africa aged four and Chelsea is his third club after Dunkerque and Marseille.

He brings experience from the Uefa Champions League to the Chelsea ground, Stamford Bridge, but if he needs a little advice on the peculiarities of the tough English game, then close friend Mark Fish is not far away at Charlton Athletic.

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