11 June 2010: The day Siphiwe Tshabalala put his laces through 'Jabulani'
JOHANNESBURG - It is exactly 10 years later, but Siphiwe Tshabalala still relives that moment - with great enthusiasm and gratitude.
It was on June 11, 2010 when Tshabalala brought the nation to its feet, giving Bafana the lead with a stunning goal when they opened their campaign against Mexico in the Fifa World Cup that was hosted in South Africa.
During our 40-minute daytime conversation on Zoom, Tshabalala cut a relaxed figure in his living room as he responded to every question with a bright smile.
When the visuals became blurred towards the end of our meeting, as sunset had approached, the passion that filled his voice was still there.
This was no ordinary moment that Tshabalala was reminiscing about, considering it had transformed him from an ordinary Bafana Bafana and South African footballer to the dizzying heights of being an internationally respected icon.
“After 2010, I maintained myself in terms of being consistent on the field. Off the field, the brand grew because I was known globally and that has helped me a lot as a person.
“Till today, I still get messages from friends across the world as they are still talking about the goal,” Tshabalala said.
The wonder goal didn’t give South Africa all three points as the Mexicans settled for a 1-1 draw, but the joy that it brought has since left a lasting memory to all those who witnessed and heard about it.
Against the run of play, Bafana combined a set of constructive passes in the engine room, but as the ball came down to Kagisho Dikgacoi, he released Tshabalala with one of the best threaded defence splitting passes.
Down the left flank, the then Kaizer Chiefs man intercepted the ball with a lovely first touch before finishing off with a thunderbolt strike that rattled goalkeeper Oscar Perez’s top right corner.undefined
“After the first whistle, it was difficult.
“Mexico were all over us but Itu (Khune, the Bafana goalkeeper) kept us in the game,” Tshabalala recalled.
“But before the goal, we were very organised and compact.
“Mexico were in possession but as soon as we got the ball, I think we only made three passes.
Siphiwe Tshabalala with the strike that started the month-long party in South Africa. Picture: Reuters
“We then pulled off one of the best transitions but if we were not organised, that (goal) wasn’t going to happen.”
He continued: “Everything that happened there, we worked on it for a long time.
“As soon as I received the ball, the first touch was good. I initially thought of lobbing the ball over the goalkeeper but I ended up unleashing a powerful shot. I felt it when the ball left the foot that it was definitely going in.”
As he ran towards the corner flag, with his arms outstretched, to celebrate with his teammates - and the vuvuzela sounds bursting to life at the packed Soccer City Stadium - it was a deja vu moment for Tshabalala.
“At some point, I was in my own world. I reminisced on the journey when I was still young and scoring beautiful goals. No one was watching but I was cheering myself,” he said.
Siphiwe Tshabalala celebrates his goal with teammates. Picture: Reuters
“And now I was scoring one of the most beautiful goals in the history of football where almost everyone in the world witnessed it, it was really amazing.
“Nothing happened by fluke. We planned for everything. We put in a lot of work, and we sacrificed.”
Giving life to the mantra that “when one door closes, the other opens”, Tshabalala was not to be denied his dream of playing in Europe.
In August 2018 - at the age of 33 - Tshabalala joined Turkish Premier Division side BB Erzurumspor, where he spent only one season of his original two-year deal - after mutually terminating his contract when the club was relegated.
But his memories of the royal reception he received from the Erzurumspor supporters after landing at their airport is something that he’ll forever hold dear to his heart.
“I think most of you (the people of South Africa) only saw the video from the airport. I still have a small clip that I took while we were driving from the airport to the training ground. It was like a wedding. There was a convoy and all the fans all came out blowing horns, waving the blue and white flags of the club. It really touched me.”
Siphiwe Tshabalala celebrates his goal. Picture: Reuters
Tshabalala is clubless since being released by Erzurumspor at the end of last season but remains hungry to achieve more success.
“I had plenty of offers from abroad. But I’ve put everything on hold because of coronavirus. The plan is to get out of the situation alive and healthy. But not just for me, but for everyone,” he said.
Tshabalala is the third highest capped Bafana player with 89 appearances for the national team, two behind Khune and 20 behind Aaron Mokoena, and says he remains grateful for all that he’s achieved at international and club level.
However, he adds that his legacy over the years was also built for all those who couldn’t fulfil their own dreams and those that are still coming. Talk about a true legend!