JOHANNESBURG – Thulani Hlatshwayo’s drive for success knows no limits. No sooner had he been crowned the country’s best defender than he was already setting his sights on another goal.
“I’d love to keep the Bafana Bafana captain’s armband for a long time,” Hlatshwayo said at the Premier Soccer League’s end-of-season awards ceremony this week.
The Bidvest Wits defender had a fantastic year of firsts that will have his name forever etched in local football folklore.
He captained the Clever Boys to their first ever league title as Gavin Hunt’s team deposed Mamelodi Sundowns as Premiership champions.
As if that was not enough, Hlatshwayo was also the skipper when yet another South African football milestone was achieved.
Bafana Bafana’s first ever competitive victory over Nigeria’s Super Eagles - the 2-0 African Cup of Nations qualifier win out in Uwo last month - happened on his watch.
Add to that the fact Wits also won the MTN8 title and Hlatshwayo can be forgiven for being a contented man, confident he has delivered the goods.
But the man popularly referred to as ‘Tyson’ is far from being satisfied and believes he can do much more.
Having grown up seeing defenders leading Bafana, he dreams of emulating the likes of Neil Tovey, Lucas Radebe and Aaron Mokoena.
“It is a proud moment for me to be following in the footsteps of those great captains. And coach Stuart Baxter has said he’s not one to rotate the armband and my hope is to keep it and lead the team for longer and hopefully help them win trophies.”
Such was the sterling work he has done at Wits that not many will argue against him remaining Bafana skipper going forward.
Though not among the most vociferous of captains, Hlatshwayo leads his troops with his performances - no-nonsense defending that is mixed with brave forays up front that often result in headed goals.
“Football has different captains,” he says.
“I would describe myself as the silent one. I’m not vocal but I like to lead through my performances. There isn’t something super special about me as captain,” Hlatshwayo lamented.
His teammates would no doubt beg to differ with his last statement, given how elated they were for him as he picked up his PSL Best Defender award, the respect for him evident.
To finally win it made the man from Soweto feel on top of the world.
“This,” he says looking at the trophy in his hands, “has eluded me for the past two seasons. I was nominated but I didn’t win it, so winning it now it is really a proud moment.
“Yes, I had a good season and I’m proud of myself. But I am a team player and I would love to take this opportunity to thank my teammates, without them I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
He wants to move on to bigger and better places though and given his talents, work ethic, attitude and drive few would be surprised to see him realise his goal of leading Bafana to glory soon.