CAPE TOWN – Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo has elaborated on why he stated that he was 'injury free' - just days before being forced to retire from football prematurely.
It was confirmed on Wednesday by Pirates that the 29-year-old Khuzwayo’s professional career has been cut short due to a lingering ankle injury, which he first picked up during his time at Kaizer Chiefs.
Khuzwayo had been expected to feature in last weekend's Carling Black Label Cup after being voted into the starting XI by the Pirates fans.
But despite having declared himself 'injury free' on Twitter, the player was withdrawn from the Pirates team just before the voting lines closed last Friday.
Confusion then reigned after the shot-stopper was omitted from the official Pirates squad for the new season, before the club announced the player's forced retirement on Wednesday.
Khuzwayo has now clarified his earlier comment about not being injured.
"In terms of being 'injury free' – I can be injury free but, in elite sports, the doctors don't see me having the performance [level] to perform at the highest level," he said.
When Khuzwayo, who had been on Pirates' books as a junior, re-joined the Buccaneers a year ago from Chiefs, he arrived injured, and never got to feature in an official match for the Sea Robbers.
During his time at Amakhosi, he played second fiddle to Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune for several years, yet still managed to excel with the few opportunities he did get, and went on to play for the senior national team himself.
Khuzwayo added that he hopes to continue working in football in another capacity.
"It's very important for me to shift my mindset," he said. "Right now, things are not going how I wished it would be, but God has decided things will go [down] this path to create a new chapter for me.
"If I accept the past and also accept the present, I will move [forward] and learn so much about life in general, because life doesn't end just playing football.
"It's up to me now to find another thing that will actually make me excited to continue, because I don't see myself getting outside of football.”
Much loved and respected by supporters and his fellow professionals, the tributes have been pouring in for the one-time AmaZulu keeper.
"Always great seeing my brother [Khuzwayo], but life can be cruel sometimes," Khune, who has remained in close contact with his former team-mate, wrote.
"It saddens me and all South Africans to hear the sad news about Brilliant Khuzwayo retiring, we are going to miss you on the field bro.”
Former Chiefs midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane recalled fondly when he first met with Khuzwayo.
"I remembered the day I first met you in Rustenburg," Letsholonyane stated in a message on Instagram.
"And you were called Casillas, and that day you said you were going to be the number one keeper in the country and that you coming to [Kaizer Chiefs] from [AmaZulu] to take [Khune's] position.
"I thought who's this boy that thinks highly of himself? Few months later you joined Chiefs and I got to see what you were talking about and the work you were putting in making sure that you were a top goalkeeper.
"I know that you did enjoy yourself, you were always smiling even when things were not going your way. The end of your football journey, but the beginning of life journey with lots and lots of possibilities. I salute you Sir.”
Andrew Sparkes, former goalkeeper coach at Pirates and now working at Southampton in the English Premier League, was another one to express his condolences.
“Football can be so cruel at times, really sad news to hear that [Khuzwayo] has had to retire early from football due to injury. BK had so much talent and also the personality to become one of South Africa's best GKs. I wish you well in the future my friend.”
Brylon Petersen, currently in the Chiefs squad, also showed his appreciation of Khuzwayo's influence.
"To the man that fuelled my passion for the game when I met him as a teenager, I say thank you! Thank you for taking a young goalkeeper under your wing and helping him flourish. I will always appreciate your input brother. I know you are going to excel!”
Pirates recently parted ways with Jackson Mabokgwane, leaving them with three goalkeepers in the first team squad: Wayne Sandilands, Siyabonga Mpontshane and France-born stopper Joris Delle, who was on the books of Dutch side Feyenoord last season.
African News Agency (ANA)