Afcon: Thapelo Maseko touted as the ‘future of Bafana Bafana’

Bafana Bafana’s Thapelo Maseko celebrates after scoring a goal during their Africa Cup of Nations match against Namibia

Bafana Bafana’s Thapelo Maseko celebrates after scoring a goal during their Africa Cup of Nations match against Namibia. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Jan 31, 2024

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Bafana Bafana attacker Thapelo Maseko might have recently made his Africa Cup of Nations debut, but his former coaches have tipped him to be the future of the team.

Maseko has been one of the standout players for Bafana at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, having also racked up a goal for the team in the group stage.

That goal against Namibia in the second game was a poacher’s finish as he connected well with Teboho Mokoena’s weighted pass before slotting past Lloyd Kazapua.

Kwanele Kopo, who was one of the coaches who scouted Maseko for SuperSport’s academy in 2018 before he broke into the senior team, always knew that he was a lethal finisher.

“He’s a very good finisher, full of speed and aggressive,” Kopo said yesterday from Gqeberha, where he’s co-coach of Chippa United.

“We brought him to the academy where he trained with the under-19 (team) for three weeks. He can play as both a striker and as a winger when he’s up front.

“As it has been in recent months at SuperSport and Sundowns, he can be effective in both positions. He can finish from awkward angles and (score) goals that you don’t expect him to score.”

Maseko wasn’t always a standout player in his early days at SuperSport, having struggled in the academy before earning his big break for the club last season.

The 19-year-old was nominated for the DStv Premiership Young Player of the Year award last season and made up for missing out on that award to Cassius Mailula by winning it at his club.

His impressive season didn’t go unnoticed as he was signed by arch-rivals Mamelodi Sundowns where he became an instant hit.

Maseko’s meteoric rise has stunned Kopo would but he feels SuperSport’s financial struggles, which led to his sale, sent him in the right direction.

“No (I didn’t think he’d be a hit). It’s been quite a surprise,” said Kopo.

“When he first joined us he was struggling in the technical drills in the academy. He was really struggling at first. But he learnt and worked hard. And that’s why he was able to perform really well.

“Despite doing well for the reserve team, his promotion was also forced by circumstances as well. And the good thing is that he took the opportunity very well.”

Maseko’s calm and sensible demeanour made it easy for him to adapt to the national team as well.

“I think he can become the future of the team. (Coach) Hugo Broos is not an easy man to impress,” said SuperSport United senior team assistant coach Andre Arendse.

“So the fact that he has overcome that hurdle is massive. He’s a big step in the right direction.

“People like to say things depend on the national team coach. But (Maseko’s) not one-dimensional. He gives the coach options; I think the coaches in future will be foolish not to include him in their plans.

“I think he’s one of the players that could become the future of Bafana … He’s got a good head about him and he’s disciplined. Those are character traits that can help in the future.”

IOL Sport