Khumalo a future captain
An admirable World Cup display may be the making of Mokoena’s successor
ON the strength of his showings at the World Cup, his leadership potential and his quality as a defender, Bongani Khumalo looks set to be a future captain of Bafana Bafana.
Khumalo emerged late as the player to partner current Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena in central defence at the World Cup, but will not look back after a stirling tournament.
The strongly-built SuperSport United defender had two world-class games in the 1-1 draw against Mexico and 2-1 victory against France, marking some of the world’s most threatening forwards.
With the composed manner in which he made timely challenges and shepherded pacy forwards such as Mexico’s Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela and Les Bleus’s Franck Ribery and Djibril Cisse, Khumalo is sure to find himself Europe-bound before the World Cup.
In the 3-0 defeat against Uruguay, Khumalo and the rest of his defence were left exposed by a poor midfield showing, while his inexperience saw him struggling to deal with Ajax Amsterdam goal ace Luis Suarez.
Mokoena is 29 now and another up-andcoming central defender, Lamontville Golden Arrows’ Siyabonga Sangweni, is threatening to displace the skipper in central defence in the not-so-distant future.
Whoever takes over from Carlos Alberto Parreira after the World Cup — the consensus seems that it will be current assistant Pitso Mosimane — might be on the lookout for a new captain as Bafana build for Brazil in 2014.
It seems possible Khumalo, well-spoken and intelligent, sophisticated in dealing with the media, and potentially a big player for the future, might get that role.
The central defender was cautious after the France victory when asked about the bright future that appears to lie at his feet.
“It’s one step at a time really. I’ve always wanted to play in Europe, in the top leagues and with the best players, and also obviously in the Champions League,” Khumalo said.
“That’s what the game’s all about — that stage. I’m hoping there will be opportunities to try and begin a new journey.”
Khumalo firmly believes Bafana’s overall performance at the World Cup was worthy of merit, even a heavy defeat against Uruguay where refereeing decisions went against the South Africans.
“I think it [our performance] was really good,” he said.
“The last game [against Uruguay] looks bad. Wereally didn’t play all that badly. Critical decisions went against us and cost us big time.
“But ultimately I think we did really well. We got four points and normally in a tournament like this that’s enough.”
The SuperSport defender agreed with Parreira’s assessment that Bafana have been given an identity in training camps in Brazil, Germany and at home.
“I believe we do. I think everyone’s witnessed the way we play and the way we defend. We work in units and we support each other on the ball, which is very important.
“We’ve worked very hard to get that identity, that chemistry within the team, and we really have to just keep stressed.
Bafana now turn their attention to their next task — qualifying for the 2012 African Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon from a group that includes Africa’s number one-ranked team, Egypt.
The South Africans open with a home gameagainst Niger in September, face Egypt at home in March 2011, the Pharaohs away in June, and their final match is away to their other Group G opponents, Sierra Leone, in October 2011.
“Home game, Niger, we have to win that one, and not leave things to the last, like we did today [against France],” Khumalo said.
“You don’t want to be going to Egypt having to get a result because weall know how difficult that is. But we’ll give it a good go from the beginning and I think we should go through.”
Khumalo scored a world class goal against the French that was an exact replica of a strike by Sangweni in their 1-1 warm-up draw against Bulgaria at Orlando Stadium.
“Yes, we’ve worked on our set pieces,” the defender said.“From club level, at SuperSport, we score a lot of goals from set pieces. And it was always a question of why don’t I do the same for the national team. So today was really special.”
it going,” Khumalo