Itumeleng Khune still stands as the 'Big Chief'
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CAPE TOWN - THE Amakhosi faithful will be over the moon that their favourite player Itumeleng Khune was surprisingly given a two-year extension to his contract and will remain with Kaizer Chiefs until the 2023 season.
Voting for the Carling Black Label Cup has been underway for some time now and to date goalkeeper Khune has bagged the most votes for any player. It signals his standing as the most popular player at the most storied club in the annals of South African football.
Before the contract extension on Tuesday, speculation was rife that Khune would be put out to pasture. Over the last few weeks, he could not displace goalkeepers Daniel Akpeyi and Bruce Bvuma as the starting goalie and often did not even make it onto the team sheet as a reserve.
It appears that Khune and his management might also have thought his days at Chiefs were numbered and were entertaining a lucrative offer from Shabab Al-Ahli, the crack United Arab Emirates club, based in Dubai. They had penned a three-year deal for Khune, and he would have been their No 1 goalkeeper. Khune had already completed a medical for Al-Ahli.
Khune is, without doubt, one of the most decorated players of his generation and, surprisingly, Chiefs gave him a two-year extension, rather than one year. Despite his popularity, he is unlikely to add to the 91 caps he has as a Bafana Bafana goalkeeper.
He is, however, poised to beat the record for the longest-serving player at Chiefs. This season will be his 18th and that equals the record held by Ace Ntsoelengoe. Next year he could hold the record on his own in a 19-season stay at Chiefs.
The latest Carling Black Label Cup voting figures also point to the popularity of Zimbabwean striker Khama Billiat who has been a pale shadow of the player that spearheaded Mamelodi Sundowns' attack with great effect. He is third on Chiefs' voting table, behind fellow striker Serbian Samir Nurkovic who is also the fan favourite to take penalties for Chiefs.
Amakhosi fans will also be delighted that Billiat will be with Chiefs for two more seasons. A player who had bagged a fair number of votes is Willard Katsande. Yesterday, however, Chiefs announced that his name will be withdrawn from the list because his contract had not been renewed.