MacBeth Sibaya’s goal was to always give his best
As Bafana Bafana prepared to stage the first ever Fifa World Cup in 2010, there were only seven members of the 23-man squad that were playing in the elite leagues in European countries - Bernard Parker, Aaron Mokoena, Tsepo Masilela, Kagisio Dikgacoi, Steven Pienaar, Anele Ngconga and MacBeth Sibaya.
The latter though was no ordinary of the lot. Sibaya was fresh from finishing third with Rubin Kazan in the Russian Premier Liga - arguably one of the most competitive leagues around the world.
Rewind back to two seasons before that, during the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009, Sibaya and his Kazan’s teammates astonishingly finished at the pinnacle of Russian football, since their promotion in 2002.
In the bigger scheme of things that meant that for three successive seasons Sibiya was South Africa’s flag bearer as Kazan battled out with the crème de la crème of European football in the qualifiers of the coveted Uefa Champions League, the main event of the Pan-European competition and the Europa League.
But still, despite hitting such strides Sibaya didn’t consider himself mightier during the 2010 global showpiece, let alone think that he had to hold the hands of his Bafana teammates, who were mostly inexperienced and local-based.
“Each and everyone has their own level of experience. So, you cannot give more than you have. I gave what I could. So, it wasn’t a matter of being under pressure. Why would I be anyway, knowing that I don’t have anything more to offer?,” said Sibaya, who was also one of the handful returnees that were part of the squad that represented Bafana in their last global showpiece in South Korea/Japan in 2002.
“We all had a common goal, and everyone’s contribution was important. There was never a point where certain players had to lead but because we were all driven by a common cause, everyone did his best.”
Granted that Sibiya didn’t feature in Bafana’s first two group matches, when they drew with Mexico and lost to Uruguay, but that he started and finished the last game of Group A when the South Africans defeated the mighty French team 2-1, albeit failing to progress to the knockout stage, speaks volumes of an experienced campaigner who knew which button he had to press when he came up against some of the best players around the globe.
Sibaya made his breakthrough in professional football at Hungarian-based outfit III. Kerület TVE Budapest in the late 1990s. But, soon after, he heeded the call to come back home, joining Jomo Cosmos where he reignited his career under the watchful eye of Jomo Sono before jetting out to Norway in January 2002 to join Rosenborg BK where he won his first championship.
A year after, the 42-year-old joined Kazan, where his success is well documented, but he had a fairy-tale ending to his career, winning the MTN8 trophy with local-based club Moroka Swallows during the 2012/2013 season, after which he hung up his boots.
Given that it’s gradually becoming a norm for most local players to struggle abroad after a handful spell before they subsequently return back to the South African domestic league, Sibaya says his willingness to allow his human qualities to flourish made him stand head and shoulders above the rest.
“Humans were created to adapt. So, when it comes to adaptation, we have no limits. If you see people climb Mount Everest, it’s a hostile situation for the body but step by step they are able to acclimatise,” said Sibaya, who’s had to endure the freezing weather conditions of Russia to be a household name in the town of Kazan.
“It depends on your mentality of how you look at things in terms of your perspective. It’s very easy to complain but to face the challenge is another story. I didn’t choose an easy route but chose one according to my creation.”
Independent on Saturday