JOHANNESBURG - Siphiwe Tshabalala was on his way to a swimming pool at Naturena on Thursday when he heard that his Bafana Bafana career that sunk a long time ago was brought back to life.
The 33-year-old Kaizer Chiefs’ club captain hasn’t played for the national team since an international friendly against Spain four years ago.
Tshabalala was on the bench against Brazil in 2014, which meant that he stayed on his 90 caps that make him the most capped player of this current generation. “Shabba” is the closest to joining Aaron Mokoena who is the only Bafana player to earn 100 caps.
“I am really happy with the call-up,” Tshabalala said. “For me, it’s an honour to be back in the national team. It’s not just about going there to add numbers. It is about going there to add value. I trust that my knowledge and the experience that I have gained over the years will help the team qualify (for the World Cup).
"I have said it before, that I still wanted to play for the national team and I will continue working hard. I knew that if I did well at Kaizer Chiefs, it would enhance my chances of going back to the national team. I am happy that I finally got the call-up.”
Tshabalala will only focus on Bafana next month, starting with the home leg in Polokwane against Senegal on November 10 before travelling to Dakar for the last match of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers four days later.
His immediate focus is helping Amakhosi bring silverware to a trophy cabinet that hasn’t had an occupant since coach Steve Komphela took over from Stuart Baxter.
Chiefs “host” AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday in the Telkom Knockout last 16. While Amakhosi have struggled for consistency, Tshabalala has been a model professional - carrying the team in a difficult time.
“It has been a tough time for the club, not winning any silverware,” Tshabalala said. “But once again an opportunity has presented itself for us to compete and bring silverware. It’s going to be tough, playing AmaZulu in Durban, their home. But we are still home away from home. They’ve done well.
"It’s a team that needs to be respected. This is the big hurdle that we need to overcome because we want to go all the way. For me (being able to be consistent) is about doing what I love. I love football. I respect football. I respect my job. I always challenge myself, that each and every game I play in, I want to be better than I was in the last one. But most importantly, I want to be a team player and be better with the team, not only myself.”
Chiefs last visit to Moses Mabhida Stadium didn’t end well. The club lost to Baroka FC in the league and their fans went on a rampage. Komphela needed a police escort to leave the venue.
“Inconsistency has been a worrying factor, we would win two or three games and then the next game we drop points,” Tshabalala said. “We have sat down as players and discussed that we need to take responsibility. We need to start winning games because all the teams come prepared.
"When teams come prepared, you must be more prepared than them. Football now is not just about the physical aspect. We also need to be mentally stronger. I feel that we are getting there. We are on the right path. It’s just a matter of time until we start winning a lot of games in a row.”