Bafana star: Siphiwe Tshabalala

2010-04-15 00:00

SIPHIWE Tshabalala is a player for the big occasions. And they don’t come a lot bigger than the 2010 World Cup on home soil for Bafana Bafana.

That’s why the skilful Kaizer Chiefs winger is earmarked as a key player for Bafana when the World Cup kicks off with its opening game between South Africa and Mexico at Soccer City on June 11.

Put Tshabalala in a less meaningful friendly, such as the 1-1 draw against Namibia at Moses Mabhida Stadium in late May, and he can appear uninterested and lethargic.

Even in Bafana’s 1-1 friendly draw against Paraguay in Asuncion at the end of last month, the left-winger was hardly in the game before suddenly finding space in the 71st minute and letting loose a screamer to score the South Africans’ equaliser.

In a similar manner, Tshabalala scored from a curling effort from range when he came on as a substitute to earn Bafana a 2-1 victory over Norway at Royal Bafokeng Stadium, in a friendly under Joel Santana in 2009.

Even when he appears out of the game, Tshabalala has the skills and creative ability to produce a moment of magic that can turn a match.

But put the Chiefs wing in a big game, and he invariably produces a performance that has world-class stamped all over it.

That was the case in the narrow 1-0 Confederations Cup semi-final defeat against Brazil at Ellis Park last year. Having played a bit role in the tournament until then, the Chiefs midfielder was given a starting role by Santana and put in an inspired display against the Selecao’s renowned right-back Maicon, including a free kick that had goalkeeper Julio Cesar at full stretch.

These are the qualities that will make Tshabalala a vital creative player for 2010. To ram home his value, the winger was Bafana’s form player in the recently completed training camp in Brazil. Apart from his effort against Paraguay, Tshabalala was banging in goals left, right and centre in the training games against Brazilian first division teams, notching up five strikes in eight games.

The midfielder has always looked like a player who would feature at 2010, since his emergence at Free State Stars in 2005. Having earlier been a Chiefs youth product, Tshabalala was signed back by Amakhosi in 2007 from relegated Stars.

This was after he had been called up to Bafana by Ted Dumitru for the 2006 African Nations Cup in Egypt. Tshabalala also played a crucial role in a vital Afcon qualifying away win over Zambia under Pitso Mosimane that year, a game that was watched by current Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira just before he took the reigns for his first stint in charge.

Tshabalala faces competition on the wings from Turkish-based Elrio van Heerden and Mamelodi Sundowns’ Franklin Cale, but is set to play a major role at 2010 for Bafana in one form or another.

FACT FILE

Full name: Lawrence Siphiwe Tshabalala

Date of birth: September 25, 1984

Age: 25

Place of birth: Soweto, South Africa

Height: 1,70 m

Playing position: Left-winger

Current club: Kaizer Chiefs

Previous clubs: Alexandra United, Free State Stars

National team: 2006–, South Africa, 40 caps, four goals

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