Itumeleng Khune takes part in Bafana training at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Wednesday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Itumeleng Khune takes part in Bafana training at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Wednesday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Calvin Marlin embraces Benni McCarthy during a recent Cape Town City match. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Calvin Marlin embraces Benni McCarthy during a recent Cape Town City match. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN - Cape Town City goalkeeper coach Calvin Marlin, after a superb career as a player, is now firmly focused on preparing and nurturing the next generation. 

The 41-year-old also enjoyed a fruitful seven-year period with Bafana Bafana (2002-2009) - including being a member of the country’s 2002 World Cup squad in South Korea and Japan - and, as such, he has experience of what it takes to be a successful No 1 at international level.

With the uncertainty around the availability of Itumeleng Khune (facial injury) for the upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Senegal, Marlin believes, if the Kaizer Chiefs keeper was to miss out, it would be a blow for Bafana.

“If Khune doesn’t make it, Bafana will miss his leadership role,” said Marlin. “His calmness and presence provide the team with confidence. Wayne (Sandilands) has been around, but hasn’t played all that much in recent seasons. Ronwen (Williams) hasn’t had a great start to his Bafana career.

“I also think, in the case of Ronwen, who has played well at club level, it’s an indication of the poor finishing in the PSL. And, therefore, when goalkeepers like Ronwen make the step up to international football, they find that the quality of the finishing is so much better. I remember, from my days with Bafana, at how surprised I was by the difference between the PSL and international football.”

The South African national football team needs to win both games against Senegal to secure a place in the World Cup in Russia next year. Having been to the global sporting spectacular in 2002, Marlin stressed that the current players needed to fully understand the enormity of playing at such an event.

“There is nothing to compare to being at the World Cup,” he said. “To be part of the biggest stage in football, I don’t think the players realise how big an occasion it is. To be there is massive for a player’s career. Everyone is watching and it’s a stage where players can land contracts with bigger European clubs.”

Born in Port Elizabeth, Marlin got his break in professional football with now-defunct PE club Michau Warriors in 1996. He went on to play for Seven Stars, Ajax Cape Town, SuperSport United, Mamelodi Sundowns and Mpumalanga Black Aces before settling in to his new role as goalkeeper coach.

“I was at Aces at the time, but hadn’t played for two years,” explained Marlin. “Then Clive (Barker, coach) and the whole technical staff were fired, and the club asked me to assist the new man coming in. I agreed, and that’s when I started helping with the keepers and coaching in general. The following season, Muhsin (Ertugral) took over at Aces and he was happy to have me as the goalkeeper coach. When John Comitis bought the club and relocated it to Cape Town, I came down as part of the package.

“Being a goalkeeper is a unique position. If you haven’t played it before, it’s tough to teach. But that is why I feel that clubs have, in recent years, taken the position of a goalkeeper coach much more seriously, realising that it’s important to have a specialised person to educate, help and improve their goalkeepers.”

Marlin has been an integral part of the remarkable City story after the club’s inception in June last year. While the main men - last year Eric Tinkler and, this season, Benni McCarthy - have hogged the headlines, Marlin and City assistant coach Ian Taylor play influential roles behind the scenes in advising their head coaches at training and on the bench.

“Last season, at City, we had a good group of players and, because it was a new club, everybody just pulled together. To be honest, they played above themselves and, when it started going well, they said ‘we can do this’. Because remember many of these players had been sent away by other clubs, they had something to prove. They put in the hard work and they got the rewards,” Marlin said.

Looking forward, Marlin is clear about his goal in the game, the role he wants to play and how he wants to contribute. “I just want to educate myself more as a coach - I want to keep learning,” he said. “I want to keep teaching keepers at all levels.”

Cape Argus

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