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My support structure keeps me going, says Kaizer Chiefs icon Itumeleng Khune

FILE - Kaizer Chiefs FC goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune celebrates a goal during the 2018/19 season. Photo: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

FILE - Kaizer Chiefs FC goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune celebrates a goal during the 2018/19 season. Photo: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 27, 2022

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Johannesburg — The golden days where Itumeleng Khune was the man to beat for the No. 1 jersey at Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana may have passed him, but the veteran keeper says he's grateful there are people who believe he “still has a lot to offer”.

After being troubled with injuries in the last few seasons, Khune fell down in the pecking order at his club, Chiefs. Such that since the start of the season, he’s played one game – against Mamelodi Sundowns in the MTN8 quarter-final.

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And since that defeat to Sundowns in the Wafa Wafa cup, Khune has found himself kicking his heels in the stands, with Daniel Akpeyi the preferred first choice goalkeeper by returning commander in chief Stuart Baxter in recent weeks.

But the 34-year-old who was at some point the darling of South African football with his telling saves, pin-point distribution and sharp reflexes hasn’t thrown in the towel just yet though, insisting he still has a lot to offer in the game.

“To be quite honest, it’s been difficult to adjust (to the new normal of not playing) but I’ve got a good support structure around me,” Khune said. “There are people from the club that still call me and encourage me not to throw in the towel.

“I’ve got my family, wife and daughters that keep putting smiles on my face at all times. I know that I am not doing it for myself anymore but for the people that still believe in the talent and that I still have a lot to offer in this beautiful game.”

Despite being overlooked at Chiefs, Khune continues to be the fans’ favourite. The fans recently voted for him to be included and start in the DStv Compact Cup semi-final last week. And he impressed in the Warriors’ 2-1 victory over Amabutho.

Khune, though, argues that he is not playing to prove a point to anyone as he believes that he’s still got enough tank to compete for the No. 1 jersey. But he says he was overwhelmed by the praise and recognition he got from his supporters.

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“There is that part (where I wanted to show I can still do it). When I realised how many goalkeepers that we have from these clubs, with myself and Bruce (Bvuma) having been selected before, that gave me hope," the former Bafana No. 1 said.

“I needed to go out there, impress and do what I do best. (But) I am not here to prove a point to anyone that I still got it. I just want to enjoy myself and give the fans that still believe in me, and voted for me, something to smile about as well.”

Despite his impressive outing in the DStv Compact Cup, where the Warriors will face Coastal United in the final at FNB Stadium tomorrow afternoon, Khune is not naïve, thinking that he’ll just walk back into the starting Xl at Chiefs.

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“We’ve got a great relationship (with the coaching staff) but we understand that other goalkeepers are doing well – and that has to be respected. And that’s why you’ll never see me posting negatively about my situation,” Khune said.

@Mihlalibaleka

IOL Sport

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