JOHANNESBURG - The spotlight that shone on Teko Modise and Itumeleng Khune as poster boys of South African football is firmly on Percy Tau, but that attention is not what inspires the Mamelodi Sundowns’ star.
The make-up of Tau’s fan club is what drives him. A large following of his fans are young and upcoming footballers. It’s those fans he aims to please by helping Sundowns to a record eighth league title in the PSL-era which could see him walk away with the Footballer of the Year award and even the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot.
Tau is tied on 11 goals with Rodney Ramagalela with five matches to go. But that’s not where Tau’s good numbers end, he also has 11 assists which means that he has been directly involved in 22 of the 41 goals Sundowns have scored in the league. The last of those goals and assists came on Sunday at Peter Mokaba Stadium in the Brazilians’ 2-1 win over Baroka FC, stretching their lead at the summit to four points.
“Winning the Footballer of the Year award and the Golden Boot would mean progress,” Tau said. “It would mean a good season. It would be a reward and something to look at and show other people. The most important thing is to use my success to inspire the young kids who are coming up and look up to me.
"I try to inspire the next generation by doing well and ensuring whatever I do rubs off on them and they are driven to emulate and better it. It would be a good reward for the good work that we as Sundowns have done this season.”
Tau spoke with his mischievous grin that wasn’t that bright due to the flu. He played with flu in the win over Bakgaga and Chippa United yet he found the back of the net in both games.
“The side effect is that I don’t run normally. I don’t breathe the same. I struggle to breathe. But it was better on Sunday. I didn’t need to drink pills.”
The 23-year-old spent Monday resting in the first of the three days that coach Pitso Mosimane gave his players off. Sundowns will only have two training sessions before taking on Bidvest Wits on Saturday.
That fixture has become some sort of grudge game with the rivalry strong between these teams. The Clever Boys stole the 2016/17 championship from the Brazilians, who slipped up in their last five matches while Wits soared.
Mosimane vowed they would reclaim the title from Wits on the day the Clever Boys were crowned champions for the first time in almost a century of the club’s existence. Sundowns look on course to do that while Wits have mounted a terrible defence of their title, flirting with relegation at one point this season. Even though Wits easily relinquished the league, Sundowns will not have it easy at Loftus Versfeld in their meeting.
“It’s a big game,” Tau said. “They are the champions. But it’s different now. It’s us on top. We’ll try and give it everything because we were really hurt last season when we lost the league in the last three games. If we can take it one game at a time, we will ensure that Masandawana are happy at the end of the season.”