Tim­o­thy Molobi looks into why the whole coun­try goes into panic mode when­ever Itume­leng Khune gets in­jured

CityPress - - Sport -

It is of­ten said that when the US coughs, the rest of the world catches a fever. It is the same with Bafana Bafana when the coun­try’s num­ber one player, Itume­leng Khune, sus­tains an in­jury – the stress lev­els rise. The last time Khune was not on the team, Bafana lost back-to-back matches to Cape Verde, hence the panic. His ab­sence al­ways psy­cho­log­i­cally af­fects the play­ers.

Khune comes with nat­u­ral tal­ent, hard work, bags of ex­pe­ri­ence, great or­gan­i­sa­tional skills, an abil­ity to spot and snuff out dan­ger, and a su­perb dis­tri­bu­tion abil­ity that launches dan­ger­ous at­tacks.

With his foot skills, he can also play a sweeper role. He com­mands the re­spect of his de­fend­ers and in­stills con­fi­dence in them.

Ad­di­tion­ally, his very name strikes fear into the hearts of op­po­si­tion for­wards. He leads from the back and starts at­tacks from his own area.

But his re­cent in­jury in a game against Chippa United has once again ex­posed the gap­ing canyon that is present in the coun­try’s shot-stop­ping stock.

Khune’s ath­leti­cism, skill and tal­ent made up for the fact that there is no de­cent backup be­hind him.

It is only when he is not around that the na­tion re­alises how thin Bafana are in the goal­keep­ing depart­ment.

Su­perS­port United’s Ron­wen Wil­liams has not won the trust of the na­tion af­ter his howlers in na­tional colours, while Wayne Sandi­lands has also lost his com­pa­tri­ots’ con­fi­dence af­ter his be­low-par per­for­mance in the de­feat against Cape Verde re­cently. But how did it get to this point? For­mer Bafana goal­keeper Brian Baloyi has put the blame squarely on Pre­mier Soc­cer League (PSL) clubs’ shoul­ders, say­ing they did not de­velop many goal­keep­ers.

Baloyi, who had 24 Bafana caps, said the coun­try was fac­ing a goal­keep­ing cri­sis as well as striker short­ages.

He said there was a need to ad­dress these chal­lenges at de­vel­op­men­tal and club lev­els.

“What do we make of a sit­u­a­tion where seven PSL clubs have foreign goal­keep­ers? In fact, what does it say when Sun­downs alone has three in­ter­na­tional goal­keep­ers?” asked the Kaizer Chiefs goal­keeper coach.

Nine clubs rely on local keep­ers, but, ex­cept for Wil­liams and Sandi­lands, they have no in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence at the high­est level.

AmaZulu’s Boalefa Pule is the only one who comes close, hav­ing kept goals in the ju­nior na­tional team and Bafana’s CAF African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship qual­i­fiers.

Frankly, there hasn’t been any­one who has come close to Khune’s stan­dard, and this has been ev­i­dent on more than one oc­ca­sion.

Back in 2015 at the CAF Africa Cup of Na­tions in Equa­to­rial Guinea, for­mer coach Shakes Mashaba had to use three of his goal­keep­ers – Dar­ren Keet, Bril­liant Khuzwayo and Jack­son Mabokg­wane – in each of the group games against Al­ge­ria, Ghana and Sene­gal be­cause no one could claim the num­ber one spot.

In fact, since the death of Senzo Meyiwa in 2014, no one has come close to chal­leng­ing the Kaizer Chiefs num­ber one.

The goal­keep­ers can’t say they were not given a chance – they were, but failed to grasp it with both hands.

Brighton Mhlongo was tipped to chal­lenge Khune, but he has also fallen by the way­side. He does not even keep goals at his Chippa United team.

Baloyi said there was no need to panic, but that the other goal­keep­ers needed to be sup­ported and en­cour­aged.

“It does not make sense to talk evil about them be­cause we are go­ing to need them one day. But they re­ally need to come to the party and win back our con­fi­dence. For now, we have to keep sup­port­ing them and hope for the best. We know what they are ca­pa­ble of be­cause they are good at their clubs.”

But per­haps they are only good for club foot­ball and find the in­ter­na­tional stage too hot to han­dle.

This has been ev­i­dent as most of them have been given chances to keep goals at in­ter­na­tional level, but were of­ten found want­ing.

They need to step up to the plate be­cause the coun­try can­not rely solely on Khune. He can’t be expected to carry the na­tion’s hopes alone, and his ab­sence must not con­tinue to raise blood pres­sures.

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