Forget about Itumeleng Khune, Ronwen Williams has earned his stripes as Bafana’s No 1

Bafana Bafana captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Bafana Bafana captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Published Mar 29, 2023


Johannesburg — 91 International caps — and not out!

Itumeleng Khune is no doubt one of the best — if not the best — to don the Bafana Bafana No 1 jersey in our generation. The numbers are there to back that up.

ALSO READ: Bafana Bafana beat Liberia to qualify for 2023 Africa Cup of Nations

But while he was expected to mature like fine wine — like his role model Gianluigi Buffon, who’s still going strong at 45 years of age — Khune’s career has been going in reverse.

Buffon is still the No 1 at childhood club Parma in the Serie B, while Khune, fully fit, is failing to even make the 18-man match-day squad at his own childhood club, Kaizer Chiefs.

Yet we still have admirers who are advocating for his return to Bafana instead of recognising that his best days are behind him and there’s a new king in town, Ronwen Williams.

Williams — and not Khune — was part of the Bafana team that qualified for the Afcon finals next year in Ivory Coast after beating Liberia 2-1 in Monrovia on Tuesday night.

It was a hard-fought victory for Hugo Broos’ team and they needed to find a winner in the second half after squandering their 1-0 advantage before the break.

Mihlali Mayambela got the vital winner for the visitors but Williams still endured a lot of criticism after his butter-fingers allowed the Lone Stars back in the game.

The 31-year-old, though, dusted himself off and made crucial saves that ensured that Bafana secured the three points and did not throw away their advantage like they did in the reverse fixture in Orlando.

But that feat didn’t prompt appreciation from the social media streets for Williams given that he was also the first captain to lead Bafana to the Afcon finals since defender Thulani Hlatshwayo in 2019.

Instead, the debate on whether Williams will ever reach Khune’s level was the main topic.

But since that 5-0 drubbing by Brazil in 2014, Williams is more familiar with criticism than appreciation by now.

Early last year, Williams was Bafana’s best player in the 5-0 loss to then-World Champions France but instead of being praised for the 11 saves he made, his naysayers were only worried about the scoreline.

And since then, criticism continued to follow Williams — on and off the pitch. This is despite having had to guide youngsters at both club and international level.

His move to Mamelodi Sundowns last winter was met with mixed reactions as well, with many arguing that he’d struggle to dethrone Denis Onyango for the No 1 jersey, while others believed he would succeed.

And kudos to the small fraction that believed in him, with the detractors eating humble pie given that Williams has led his side to the cusp of three major trophies.

With a staggering 17 clean sheets in 28 matches across all competitions, Sundowns are just two points away from wrapping up the league title, while they are still in the CAF Champions League and Nedbank Cup’s quarter-finals.

ALSO READ: Hugo Broos credits ‘powerful defensive players’ for guiding Bafana Bafana to Afcon qualification

This is why Williams is the front runner for the PSL Goalkeeper of the Season award, while some argue that he deserves a nomination for the Footballer of the Season award as well.

Williams’ debut season at Sundowns has seen him earn the admiration of the Al Ahly fans but he won’t be moving there as Egyptian elite clubs are prohibited from signing foreign goalkeepers.

So sure, it will take some time before Williams reaches Khune’s dizzy records but if he continues to dust himself off after every mistake and work hard, there’s nothing stopping him from being the world’s best


IOL Sport