OPINION: Tau should not be our only overseas star
DURBAN – Percy Tau had social media in South Africa abuzz last Thursday as his Belgian side Club Brugge locked horns with Manchester United in the last 32 of the Europa League.
Soccer fans throughout the country were glued to their TVs as though the national team was playing. It was beautiful to witness how almost every social media platform one logged onto was all about Tau.
Granted the former South African Footballer of the Year did not play the entire match as he got subbed in the 60th minute, to the anger of most locals but the excitement with which South Africans anticipated and watched the Europe League match told the story of how much we want our players participating in such tournaments.
We need to start exporting more players.
Can you imagine the excitement if we had our players participating in top European competions week-in and week-out like it used to be back in the days of Mark Fish, Shaun Bartlett, Benni McCarthy, Aaron Mokoena, and Steven Pienaar.
It is only through having our players competing at the highest level that the standard of our international football will move to a higher level.
It’s been roller-coaster ride for Tau. Not so long ago, Tau was plying his trade in the PSL. But he is now rubbing shoulders with elite players.
During this season’s edition of the Uefa Champions League, the Witbank-born star squared off against the likes of Real Madrid and Paris Saint German. So the space of six months, Tau has locked horns against three of the best teams in Europe.
It’s been a great step up for him and he has put South Africa on the international map. Tau is an inspiration to up and coming footballers. But he should not be the only one.
We need to move back to those good old days when young players looked up to the likes of the dearly departed Chippa Masinga and Shoes Moshoeu, as well as Steve Komphela and Lucas Radebe, who played overseas. These same players were no doubt inspired by the stories of Kaizer Motaung and Jomo Sono plus the late Ace Ntsoelengoe and Andries Maseko who played in North America years back when we were still in international isolation.
After Radebe’s generation, players such as Quinton Fortune, Derlon Buckley, McCarthy and Siyabonga Nomvethe followed.
That generation was followed by the likes of Matthew Booth, Macbeth Sibaya, Mbulelo Mabizela and Pienaar.
All of these footballers competed at the highest level with honour and distinction. But over the years, we’ve really struggled to produce talent that will take the world by storm. That’s why when Tau locked horns against United, it was like the national team was playing because we are no longer used to such moments.
Right now we don’t have footballers who are campaigning in the top four European leagues - the Spanish La Liga, English Premier League, Bundesliga or Serie A.
Our top talent should compete in these leagues in order for Bafana Bafana to get back to their best.
I was so dejected when the move of Bongani Zungu to Real Mallorca collapsed. That was a step in the right direction for South African football. We need more Taus igniting the passion of soccer lover in Mzansi.@Minenhlecr7