JOHANNESBURG – Another World Cup means going down memory lane with Siphiwe Tshabalala. And why not?
His opening goal in the 2010 edition of the greatest sporting event on earth remains his greatest career moment, and Africa’s finest moment, too.
Who can forget Tshabalala bursting down the left flank in anticipation of a beautifully pass by teammate Kagisho Dikgacoi to break the deadlock between hosts Bafana Bafana and Mexico in Group A of the World Cup at a packed Soccer City - the FNB Stadium?
It had been a tense affair, as you would expect, the two sides teasing each other and desperate to avoid being the first one to concede and ultimately not wanting to lose their first game of the tournament.
Bafana drew first blood as Tshabalala struck a thunderbolt from just outside the box to beat Mexico goalkeeper Oscar Perez. Neutrals and those who backed the hosts were sent into wild celebrations. And like many, the goal scorer remembers his cracker, which later received a nomination for the Fifa Puskas award, like it was yesterday.
“For me that is the highlight of the 2010 World Cup, being able to score the opening goal of the tournament. That’s history, and it is something that is going to live with me and beyond that as well,” the Kaizer Chiefs star recalled.
He wans’t the poster boy for the tournament before the goal. Teko Modise and Steve Pienaar were. But it is only by looking back at the squad list that you remember that midfield pair - ‘Shabba’, on the other hand, made an immediate mark.
“I still get goosebumps when I see video clips of that goal and I am still so happy. I always say to myself ‘well done Shabba, you did that’,” Tshabalala said of a memory that is still so vivid he could tell you exactly what was going through his mind at the time.
“When I got the ball the only thing on my mind was to score. When I received the ball I knew that I was in a good goal scoring position, but I wanted to just lob the ball over the goalkeeper because most of the time the goalkeepers don’t stay on the line. But I changed my mind and chose to unleash a powerful shot instead.”
Perhaps the wonder goal would have been even more significant had Bafana won the match, but defender Rafael Marquez, a man who will play in his fifth World Cup this month, got the equaliser for Mexico with 11 minutes to go until full time.
To this day, Tshabalala is known all over the continent because of what was the first goal scored in an African World Cup - his name often being sung by fans of the countries he travelled to during his Bafana career.
And eight years to the day, ‘Shabba’ is still a scorer of stunning goals for his club Chiefs, but none of them will ever mean as much.