Shu-Aib Walters: 2010 World Cup was the biggest highlight of my career
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Shu-Aib Walters may have known he would be a third choice goalkeeper during the 2010 Fifa World Cup but says such was the magnitude of the tournament that sulking and moaning was not part of the equation.
It is well documented that it’s been relatively easy for Bafana Bafana coaches to call up players that are playing for the big three - Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns - to the national team.
But that Walters was on the books of Maritzburg United before the global showpiece 10 years ago, speaks volumes of the qualities he displayed as a goalkeeper since his professional breakthrough in 2005 - having served with distinction all the teams where he had donned the No. 1
Granted that he punched above his weight to be part of the Bafana squad that played in the first ever World Cup on home soil, but Walters knew that Itumeleng Khune’s exploits for both the national team and Kaizer Chiefs had all but guaranteed him the No. 1 jersey.
In line to deputise for Khune in the global showpiece, and take over the goalkeeping responsibilities should any unforeseen circumstances occur, was Moeneeb Josephs, who was on the books of Pirates and at the peak of his career - having been playing professional football for at least 13 years at the time.
Despite all the uncertainties that engulfed his chances of representing Bafana in the biggest football event, Walters didn’t drag his feet, ensuring that he supported his teammates and trained as though he would start the next game.
“At the end of the day, you know your role especially in the goalkeeping department - it’s a little bit different compared to the in-field positions,” Walters explained.
“The coaches could change the team. So, there’s nothing that’s guaranteed. But we all knew that Itu was doing well prior to the World Cup for years. So, we knew that he was going to be our first choice. So, for you coming in, you compete and train like you are going to play. But you also have to be supportive.”
Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira might have already known who he would entrust with the goalkeeping duties in 2010 but Walters was not to be denied a chance of making the bench in the last group stage match against France where he deputised Josephs.
In the previous game against Uruguay, Khune had received a red card after fouling Luis Suarez inside his 18-area as the South Americans ended the match as 3-0 victors. That result denied South Africa a spot in the knockout stage, after they drew with Mexico in the first game and beat the French team in Bloemfontein.
“In the France game, there was more anxiety, knowing that if anything happened to Moeneeb, then I’d obviously have to go in. But it was also exciting because as a professional footballer that is what you dream of when you are on that stage,” the 38-year-old former goalkeeper explained.
“But even though I didn’t feature in the first couple of games, just being on that stage and being part of the squad, it was a massive achievement for me. It was obviously the biggest highlight of my career.”
While it’s evident that Walters wasn’t merely “lucky” to cut the mustard in the 2010 Bafana squad, he was there because of determination and hard work.
He stresses that were it not for injuries when he was at the peak of his career in 2008 there would have been more chances of him pushing for the No 1 jersey.