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Why is ’Mzansi’s Finest’ Itumeleng Khune still a fan favourite?

Kaizer Chiefs’ Itumeleng Khune is still highly regarded by South African football fans. Picture: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Kaizer Chiefs’ Itumeleng Khune is still highly regarded by South African football fans. Picture: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Published Jan 17, 2022

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Johannesburg - Even in the twilight of his career, Itumeleng Khune remains extremely popular – and with good reason too, given his brilliance between the posts for way over a decade now.

But surely it is time the self-proclaimed ‘Mzansi’s Finest’ went out to pasture. As it is, he is looking to be out of it, the Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper having not seen regular action for a while.

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He last played in the opening match of the season proper when Amakhosi lost an MTN8 first round match to Mamelodi Sundowns on penalties. And that defeat in the shoot-out is perhaps confirmation that the best days of his career are way behind him.

After all, was Khune not the superstar of shoot-outs past, generally ensuring that Chiefs were guaranteed success should a match go beyond the normal 90 minutes and extra-time?

It would appear he is still benefiting from all those years of being the star of the show as evidenced by the South African football fans who voted for Khune to be between the sticks for the Warriors in Saturday’s DStv Compact Cup semi-final against Amabutho.

Not that it was surprising, for such is the nature of this competition introduced by the Premier Soccer League to ensure some local action during the break brought about by the Africa Cup of Nations currently taking place in Cameroon.

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In a country where football fans can hardly see beyond their favourite club, gimmicky competitions that call for voting are always going to conjure up silly stuff such as an inactive Khune making the starting line-up.

Take nothing away from Khune, for he is a very popular player, the lad from Klerksdorp once amassed over million votes alone for the similarly gimmicky Carling Black Label Cup contested by Chiefs and their rivals Orlando Pirates.

But you have to wonder just what this does to young goalkeepers looking to crack the big time ...

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Surely Bruce Bvuma, the Chiefs reserve goalkeeper who has waited aeons for his chance to play, must be wondering if his time is ever going to come.

Even in this Compact Cup, he finds himself missing out because of Khune. He is the other goalkeeper in the Warriors squad.

Made up of players from Chiefs, Pirates, Swallows and TS Galaxy, the Warriors squad is expectedly dominated by the first two teams given their big following.

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And as such, younger goalkeepers like Jody February and Marlon

Heugh of Swallows and Galaxy, respectively, never stood a snowball’s chance of making the cut.

The PSL and DStv have been patting themselves on the back for this Compact Cup innovation that will see a fan winning a R1-million for having participated in the voting. Good for them.

The reality though is that we are having these events because our football sucks.

We are not at Afcon due to our poor standard of play and there is very little a competition like this Compact Cup is going to do to improve matters. Not when we are allowing fans who only see good in their clubs to decide starting lineups and getting semi-retired former stars to play ahead of promising youngsters who can do with the action.*

The PSL are sure to reason that the failures of the national team have nothing to do with them and that it is the prerogative of the South African Football Association (Safa) to ensure Bafana Bafana qualify for events such as Afcon.

That may well be, but the reality is that whatever the professional league does should do good of the national side.

The DStv Compact Cup seems to me nothing more than a kick about designed to delight the fans while also firmly entrenching the broadcaster’s hold on the professional game, just as the Warriors fans see nothing wrong with their choice of goalkeeper for Saturday’s match.

I have a vivid memory of Khune playing a blinder against Sundowns in a cup final at the Moses Mabhida on a Saturday night years back. What are the chances of ‘Mzansi’s Finest’ rewinding the clock this weekend to prove he is far from finished?

@Tshiliboy

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