OPINION: The day I counted Doc Khumalo's corners against Brazil
I got a ‘name the player’ one yesterday - silhouettes of some other world’s current stars - and to say I fared dismally would be understating the fact.
I’d rather we played a different game. Perhaps sharing our most memorable Bafana Bafana match. No doubt for many of you that 1996 Africa Cup of Nations final victory over Tunisia would rank top.
For me, the match I would never forget is the 1996 Nelson Mandela Challenge. Remember it? My memories of it are super vivid. It was, after all the first Bafana match I covered as a reporter.
The old FNB Stadium was packed to the rafters as the recently crowned African champions hosted the reigning World Cup champions Brazil.
The particularly big pressbox was also brimming with reporters including a starry-eyed yours truly who was essentially at the venue as a corner counter for the veteran reporter Billy Cooper at The Star.
I counted the corners alright, Scoops - as we affectionately referred to Cooper - continuously asking me, at the top of his voice, how many of those set pieces had been taken as Doctor Khumalo lined up for another.
Many of you will remember that the star midfielder created Bafana’s opener from one such corner kick which was headed in by the late Phil Masinga after Brazilian goalkeeper Dida left his line but failed to clear.
With no brief to file any kind of report for the next day’s paper, I was literally at the match as a spectator. Well, I did make myself useful and counted the corners for Scoops who - sadly for me - made no mention of the numbers of those set pieces.
How could he though when he found himself having to rewrite his report on two occasions.
See, deadlines for evening matches are pretty tight. You literally have to file on the whistle and with the match having started some 20 minutes late because they had to wait for the arrival of then deputy president Thabo Mbeki, it meant the reporters were always under pressure.
Scoops and pressure did not get along. And so it was that when Bafana took a surprising 2-0, Khumalo scored the second, lead to the half-time break, he literally had his report done. A little too early of course but just about everyone in the stadium thought we were due for a great win.
And then Clive Barker took off a tiring Khumalo early in the second half to boos from the crowd who probably did not realise the star midfielder had flown in from the United States just a day earlier.
Big mistake as The Dog duly admitted afterwards.
Brazil took charge of the match and scored two quick goals via Flavio and Rivaldo.
Scoops’ report had to change and I remember him feverishly punching the keypads of his Tandy - the good old ‘computer’ they used back then to file.
It was still a good report to write. Only he was too early.
On a night when Lucas Radebe was delivering a defensive masterclass by keeping World Cup winning striker Bebeto in his pocket, few would have bet on the diminutive Brazilian producing the peach of a goal that he did.
There were less than five minutes of play remaining and Bafana were holding their own against the South American greats. Surely they would hold on ...
It was a miracle Scoops did not have a heart attack when Bebeto scored the winner with a spectacular bicycle kick to connect Ze Maria’s cross from the right.
I learnt from that day onwards never to write a match report until the final whistle has been blown.