JOHANNESBURG – Only a precious few get to have their feet kissed by the gods of football before they are birthed into the earth realm.
Some are blessed with the art of caressing the ball with their feet, with the round object always willing to be obedient to their every command. On the field of play these two are one, almost inseparable.
She, the soccer ball, is always eager to go wherever her master tells her to, while the combination of her movement and her master’s swift body waves always leaves every opposing player spellbound and paralysed on the pitch.
The two, always command a raucous round of applause from the fans sitting on the stands, each time they are on the move.
Then there are those who are blessed with this incredible ability of producing long-range drives far out from goalmouth, but still are be able to find the back of the net. These type of players not only get applause from adoring fans; but a standing ovation as well.
The opposing fans can’t even help but to give in to the temptation as well. They also applaud, but only for a brief moment, before they revert to cheering on their own team.
Hlompho Kekana of Mamelodi Sundowns is one of those who was blessed by the gods with that incredible ability to shoot from range.
Like Didi of Brazil, who captained the Selecao to their two Fifa World Cups triumphs (1958 & 1962), Kekana also plays in the heart of midfield. The only difference in their shooting technique is that Kekana’s shot doesn’t swerve as it heads towards goal, while that of the Brazilian legend Didi did.
“I always had a good shot ever since I was a kid,” says Kekana whose long-range effort scored in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Cameroon earned him a Puskas award nomination last year.
“I remember when I started out at Black Leopards back in 2006, I hit Christopher Netshidzivhe with a powerful shot on the face. We were playing in a Nedbank Cup match against AmaZulu. It wasn’t intentional,” Kekana chuckles.
“I just saw a ‘keeper being off of his line and I decided to pull a shot from a set piece. Unfortunately he was in the way and it caught his face. He went flat on the ground, lying there for a good two minutes. He didn’t respond when everybody tried to wake him up. After that incident he walked up to me and said: ‘But Hlompho how could you do this to me, mara?’” he said with a light chuckle.
At Sundowns, his teammates refer to him as the “crazy one,” arguing that no normal human being can do what he does with his long-range shots, and still score from that impossible distance in game situations. But for the 31-year old midfielder, it’s about leaving an indelible mark in the game.
“I’ve noticed that no one in this current generation of players in the PSL is able to do what I do with the ball,” Kekana explains.
“They don’t even attempt it. The accuracy of the shot is something that I always work on everyday in training to ensure that I never miss a shot whenever I’m presented with a chance to do so.
“My teammates always tell me that I’m the crazy one in the team, arguing that no normal person can do what I do, referring to my shooting technique.
“For me, it’s all about leaving a mark in this game. I play for an ambitious team which wants to achieve more than we currently have as well.
“We’ve been to the Club Fifa World Cup after winning the previous Caf Champions League title and everybody is talking about us pushing to go back there again. We all want it. Hopefully we’ll do better than we did in our debut appearance there.”
Tomorrow, Masandawana will host Bloemfontein Celtic at Lucas Moripe Stadium in an Absa Premiership tie (7.30pm) and Kekana says he hopes his side will do everything in their power to come away with the desired win.
“We haven’t won a single match in our last three games (in all competitions) and that’s one thing that needs to change,” Kekana says.
“We need to start winning (again). We still have a realistic chance of defending our league title this season with these 12 games remaining.
“All we need to do is to start collecting those three points in these remaining matches we still have to play, that’s all.”