Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - JER­MAINE CRAIG

WHEN hear­ing “Ven­ters­dorp”; and the dis­cus­sion on what the North West town is best known for, the lady at the ad­ja­cent ta­ble pipes up “for the man who fell off his horse”.

Itume­leng Khune smiles, yes Ven­ters­dorp will al­ways be syn­ony­mous with Eu­gene “ET” Terre’Blanche, but Khune is its mod­ern-day “favourite son”.

The Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana cap­tain knows ET’s horse well: he has en­coun­tered it first-hand.

“When I was about seven years old, my mom Flora and I were get­ting some things at the Spar su­per­mar­ket in town, when Terre’Blanche came in­side the shop on his horse.

“He gal­loped through the store, while some­one filled his bas­ket for him. It freaked me out. He re­ally thought he owned the town, and that he could do as he wished,” says Khune.

The next time he en­coun­tered ET not long af­ter was far scarier.

“Back then we watched TV us­ing a car bat­tery. When it ran low a friend and I went to the garage to charge the bat­tery and on our way we en­coun­tered Terre’Blanche at a four- way stop in his bakkie, with his dog in the back. He stopped right in front of us and yelled at his dog to tear us apart,” Khune re­calls, the mem­ory still vivid.

“He did not want to see black peo­ple and when­ever he came across any he would send his dog to chow us. Luck­ily that day, there were traf­fic cops across the road and we were spared and made a hasty get­away, but it was not a nice ex­pe­ri­ence”.

Ven­ters­dorp cer­tainly needed a new ref­er­ence point to shed its AWB stigma, and in Khune it could not have asked for a bet­ter poster boy.

Khune comes across as as­sured and re­laxed, with great stature and pres­ence, and a ma­tu­rity and wis­dom that is very af­fa­ble.

It’s hard to fathom that he will only later this month turn 30. “Itu” seems to have been around as a flam­boy­ant leader on the foot­ball pitch for many years. At his rel­a­tively ten­der age, he’s al­ready played more than 270 times for the fabled Kaizer Chiefs and has amassed 82 caps for the national team he leads.

His road to pro­fes­sional foot- ball is an of­ten-told one, but one worth telling again.

When he ar­rived for tri­als at Kaizer Chiefs in 1999, be­fore even reach­ing his teens, he started out as a de­fender and passed the tri­als held by Chiefs’ renowned de­vel­op­ment coach Ter­ror Sephooa. He passed it again a sec­ond time as a striker, but was dealt a ham­mer blow when chest prob­lems and se­vere cramps put paid to any ca­reer as an out­fielder.

“I had al­ready taken all my be­long­ings from Ven­ters­dorp and en­rolled in a school in Joburg. As a young boy I had dreamt of play­ing for Kaizer Chiefs, I was hope­lessly in love with the club, and play­ing for them was all I ever wanted. I was dev­as­tated, but re­fused to give up on my dream,” says Khune.

Told by Sephooa that his Kaizer Chiefs jour­ney was over, he sim­ply stuck around, and stood be­hind the goals at ev­ery train­ing ses­sion, and with his bare hands dived and threw him­self at ev­ery ball that came his way be­hind the posts.

He acted as kit man­ager, as physio, what­ever he could to keep his Kaizer Chiefs dream alive.

Such was his dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion that he even­tu­ally made it at the club as a goal­keeper in their un­der-13 team, with Sephooa moved to tell him: “I am proud of you, you stayed pos­i­tive, you worked hard and re­fused to give up on your dream.”

Khune has be­come one of our most recog­nis­able, and mar­ketable sports stars.

He is proud of his jour­ney, but has lots of mile­stones to chalk up yet.

He has com­mit­ted to Kaizer Chiefs and to be­ing a one-club man.

“To achieve what I have in my ca­reer means the world to me. So many play­ers dream of get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to play for Kaizer Chiefs and I take my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as an am­bas­sador for the club very se­ri­ously.

“I’m not a club leg­end just yet, and it’s some­thing I as­pire to. Be­ing a role model takes a lot of sac­ri­fice, you have to carry your­self well off the field.

“I make mis­takes, but peo­ple must find in­spi­ra­tion when they look at you.

“So I am happy to give peo­ple my time, they de­serve it, with­out them I would not be where I am to­day,” Khune says, as he po­litely ac­com­mo­dates re­quests for his pic­ture in the busy mall.

He’s had a good spell too as Bafana Bafana goal­keeper and cap­tain, the stand- out be­ing walk­ing onto the pitch at Soc­cer City for the “breath­tak­ing” open­ing match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup at Soc­cer City and burst­ing into tears as his good friend and club and national team­mate Siphiwe Tsha­bal­ala


Bafana Bafana goal­keeper Itume­leng Khune blocks a ball dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion at AW Muller sta­dium at the Uni­ver­sity of Johannesburg.

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