McKop a huge asset for high-flying Stellies

Lee-Raoul Langeveldt of Stellenbosch FC celebrates with goalkeeper coach Pernell McKop. | BackpagePix

Lee-Raoul Langeveldt of Stellenbosch FC celebrates with goalkeeper coach Pernell McKop. | BackpagePix

Published May 27, 2024


ZIMBABWEAN goalkeeper coach Pernell “Makhiwa” McKop has inspired the high-riding Premiership side Stellenbosch, who will debut in Africa next season.

Stellenbosch FC have been one of the star Premiership performers this season after a remarkable unbeaten run of 25 matches.

Among the team’s stars this season has been goalkeeper Sage Stephens. He has been in terrific form and is supported by a feisty defence who do not allow opponents too much latitude in front of the Stellenbosch goal.

After reigning champions Mamelodi Sundowns, Stellenbosch have the second-best Premiership defence record.

“There is so much research required to equip goalkeepers adequately for a match,” said McKop.

“The team analysts will gather as much information as possible on the opposition. Some of the information is specifically for the squad goalkeeper.

“By the time the match starts, your goalkeeper already knows so much about the opponents. Sometimes you have an unexpected occurrence during matches, and then you need to pass on fresh information to the keeper on the field. There are ways and means of doing that discreetly.”

When McKop arrived in South Africa in 2004, three or four Premiership teams had goalkeeper coaches. Today, every team has one and goalkeepers are now more important than ever.

This season, several goalkeepers have won “Player of the Match” awards and, like Ronwen Williams, have become worldwide sensations because of their heroic performances in the dread penalty shoot-outs.

Williams singlehandedly ensured that Bafana Bafana reached the Afcon quarter-finals after brilliant penalty saves.

“Nowadays every team wants to keep a clean sheet and there will be great preparation going into that target,” said McKop.

“It is now a standard procedure that the team will go into the match well-prepared, with loads of intelligence gleaned from past matches. The goalkeeper will have some good insights into how the opposition will attack and who the danger man is.

“Nowadays, you have keepers Stephens and Williams who are not only the last man in defence, but they also start attacks with careful distribution.

“With one clever feed, you can send your teammate on an attack deep inside the opposition’s half before anyone can reach him.

“Sometimes these keepers are quite potent because their supply can rattle opponents because they are caught off guard.”

When Stellenbosch travels into Africa next year, McKop’s experience on the continent, as a player and coach, will come in handy.

McKop played for the Zimbabwe Under-20 side before breaking into the ranks of The Warriors, the Zimbabwe national football team.

He played for the crack Zimbabwe Saints FC, who reached the CAF Champions League (then called the Africa Cup) quarter-finals in 1989.

Once he hung up his boots, he was appointed to the Zimbabwean team as a goalkeeper coach.

He was part of the technical team under, the famous German coach, Reinhard Fabisch, who built a highly successful group that became known as the “Dream Team”.

During his time as the national goalkeeper coach, he had the opportunity to coach greats such as Bruce Grobbelaar, the Liverpool legend.


– McKop is a former Highlanders Football Club player. He also played for the Zimbabwe national team, the Warriors, at both junior and senior levels as a goalkeeper. He was involved in the coaching of some of Zimbabwe’s best goalkeepers during the Dream Team era. Some of his international protégés include Zambian goalkeeper, Kennedy Mweene; Congolese keeper, Michel Babale; and South African, Shu-Aib Walters, who was the third keeper for the South African 2010 World Cup squad. He was recently appointed goalkeeper coach for the Warriors by the Zimbabwe Football Association.