What A Week For SA Soccer!
Editor's Blog: What A Week For SA Soccer!
The past week, which started off with the great news that Mamelodi Sundowns and Bafana Bafana’s hard-tackling midfielder, Hlompho Kekana, had been nominated for FIFA’s Puskas award, will go down as one to remember in South African football.
The cracking goal the Zebediela-born midfielder scored against Cameroon’s Guy N’dy Assembé from his own half earlier this year earned him the right to compete against some of the best players in the world, such as Neymar Jr and Messi. Affectionately known as ‘Gonzalez’, the down-to-earth Kekana follows in the footsteps of Katlego Mphela and Siphiwe Tshabalala, whose screamers in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup opening game, respectively, earned them Puskas nominations. To think we have had three Puskas nominations in just about eight years is phenomenal for our football and I hope Kekana will go one step further by winning it. For that to happen, it will take more than just the retweets and well-wishes he has been receiving on social media. We ALL need to play our role in ensuring that we vote on the FIFA website for this hugely deserving South African footballer. Let’s encourage everyone to do their part, as Kekana’s win will be great not only for him and his club, but the country as well, especially since it was a Bafana goal that got him the nomination. So, South Africa, let us all rally behind Gonzalez and cast our votes for him!
As if Kekana’s nomination wasn’t enough, Banyana Banyana went on to reach the semi-finals of the 2016 CAF African Women’s Cup of Nations against almost all the odds, as they looked doomed following their goalless draw against neighbours Zimbabwe and 1–0 loss to Cameroon. It took an emphatic 5–0 win against Egypt for Coach Desiree Ellis’ charges to turn their fortunes around in the tournament. By the time you read this column, our ladies would have had a date with our nemesis, Nigeria, in the semi-finals and hopefully negotiated their way to the final. All the best to the team!
On the local front, Cape Town City continued with their fine form and reached their maiden cup final since their relocation and change of name, after thumping Free State Stars 4–1. Spare a thought for the on-form Thela Ngobeni, who singlehandedly averted an even more embarrassing defeat on the day. To think Cape Town City was hastily assembled just before the season started, amidst great uncertainty, it is remarkable to see them sitting second on the log standings (before Tuesday night’s fixtures) and in a Telkom Knockout final against SuperSport United next week. Well done to John Comitis, Eric Tinkler and his technical team, as well as their inspirational captain, Lebogang Manyama, and his colleagues for such an impressive showing thus far.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, I have to continue celebrating Mamelodi Sundowns in this column. What more can we say about the star-studded Chloorkop-based outfit and their mentor, Coach Pitso Mosimane? These guys continue to make things look so easy on the field and their 5–0 drubbing of Highlands Park proves just how dangerous they can be. To think they achieved that feat without Khama Billiat, Keagan Dolly and Leonardo Castro – who recently returned from injury – just proves the quality the team has. Percy Tau continues to grow in leaps and bounds and it is so refreshing to see a talented youngster being given a chance at a big team and also grabbing it with both hands. The level of maturity he continues to display is remarkable, and his use of skill to eliminate opposition players and create chances for the team is a marvel to watch. Tau is reminiscent of Thabo Qalinge, who was so effective when he came on for Orlando Pirates against SuperSport. Why he’s not been featuring regularly since joining the club is mind-boggling. Here’s a skilful player who isn’t out to make anyone look stupid, but to carve openings in the opposition defence. It comes as no surprise that Tinkler and Tau are Soccer Laduma’s Coach and Player of the Month for November. Congratulations to you, gentlemen, and keep up the excellent work!
What do Sundowns and City have in common? They’re two of the most in-form teams in the PSL, but they continue to play in front of relatively empty stadiums. Isn’t that sad? Do we realise what we have in these two teams? Why are we not celebrating and embracing them enough? What happened to enjoying quality football regardless of club allegiance? I have seen a lot of creative initiatives by the new kids on the block in the Mother City in an attempt to draw more people to the stadium, but there’s not been enough return to show for it.
Moving on, Thabo Matlaba continued to prove his professionalism when he reached out to SuperSport’s Jeremy Brockie to apologise for his unnecessary and unfortunate career-threatening tackle on the New Zealander. That’s the Matlaba I have come to know – one of the most honest footballers around. Brockie took to social media to acknowledge Matlaba’s phone call and message of apology and it takes a man of honour to admit when they’ve done wrong and show remorse.
Before I sign off, let me continue with the good news. It was such a pleasure getting positive feedback on our 1000th bumper edition this past week. The effort that our editorial team and everyone involved with this publication put into the milestone edition was just amazing. It came as no surprise when internationally renowned publications such as FourFourTwo, Marca, SportBild, BleacherReport, DailyMail and many others covered our interviews. Having them credit our wonderful publication for these interviews was such a fulfilling experience. Thank you, once again, to you, our readers, for your unwavering support!