OPINION: Tau a magician for all seasons
Borg El Arab Stadium, October 23, 2016. As Mamelodi Sundowns switched into jubilation mode, posing for the clicking cameras after being crowned the Kings of African football, Percy Tau cut a nonchalant figure, quietly staring at his gold medal as he sat in front of his ecstatic teammates and coaches.
Considering he forced the own goal that gave his team a comfortable 3-0 win at home in the first leg, this was a rare sight from someone who was entirely involved in the Brazilians’ 3-1 aggregate win over Egyptian giants Zamalek SC in the Pan-African competition final.
It was not Tau’s intent to attract attention as he was merely reliving the incredulity of playing in the National First Division, where he was on loan at Witbank Spurs, in the previous six months to being crowned an African champion.
But since then, let’s face it, it’s been improbable for Tau to do anything without being noticed - be it on or off the pitch. And that’s why since that great night in Alexandria, Tau has gone from being a member of the squad to a cog of the Sundowns team in the last three and a half seasons.
Tau grabbed the opportunity of being a regular first team player with both hands in the 2017/2018 season. Although he’s terribly shy, Tau’s humility came to the fore when he addressed the media. The sight of his smile and chuckles that light up his face, converted interviews into seamless conversations. But while he was the reporters’ favourite, he was every defender’s nightmare.
Tau’s trademark “Michael Jordaan signature celebration” he shared with friend and teammate Themba Zwane stole the hearts of many aspiring footballers - because it was always going to be on show in almost every match Sundowns took part in.
Tau may have shared a special bond with Zwane on and off the field but his award-winning assist of the season went to Khama Billiat against Cape Town City as they consolidated their intentions of winning their second league title in three seasons.
The 26-year-old trickster raced his way into City’s box, skinning his marker, before coming up against a host of defenders where he flipped the ball - his back facing goal - with his left foot to his right, thus lobbing it over to Billiat who intercepted the pass in the air and rattled the roof of the net with his first touch.
With such gems in his team, Mosimane bagged his third league title at Sundowns as Tau reaped the fruits of his labour by bagging the coveted PSL Footballer of the Season award - among many accolades he scooped that season.
From thereon, Tau’s next destination was European football, signing a bumper deal with English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion. But the curse and dire situation of South African football followed him as he failed to bag a work permit, an unfortunate circumstance that saw him join Belgian second tier division side Royale Union Saint-Gilloise on loan.
Tau grabbed the bull by the horns in the Proximus League. He punched above his weight to be crowned the Proximus Player of the Season for his impressive exploits at Saint-Gilloise. After decent outing with Bafana in the Afcon, the mercurial footballer got an upgrade, joining Belgian giants Club Brugge on a season-long loan deal. Tau got the taste of playing in the highest level. He glued us to our television screens when the Belgian champions visited Spanish giants Real Madrid at the iconic Santiago Bernabeu for the Uefa Champions League group stage match late last year. There they picked up an invaluable point away from home following a 2-2 draw, with Tau being involved in the opener of his team. Brugge couldn’t make it past the group stage. But not all was lost as they finished third and qualified for the knockout stage of the Uefa Europa League where they were drawn against Manchester United.
The Red Devils proved to be a lot for Tau and company, subsequently winning the tie by 5-1 on aggregate. It was another box ticked by the Witbank-born footballer. After all, experiences do not come as surreal as playing at the Bernabeu and Old Trafford in your first season in some of the highly-ranked leagues in Europe and around the globe.
Tau’s journey in continental football had come to an end for the season, enforcing him and Brugge to divert their attention to domestic football. Brugge, who topped the league’s charts with a 19-point lead, were crowned the Jupiler Pro League champions last Sunday after the government decided to completely call off the season due to Covid-19.
Tau has been the most consistent and successful South African footballer in the last half-a-decade. If he’s not enjoying individual success on or off the field - like when he graduated with a BCom Degree from Unisa last year - he’s part of a winning crew. That’s why the future couldn’t be more promising.