In a week during which Team SA failed to fire at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Qatar, one individual ignited some hope for a country desperately searching for new sports heroes.
Percy Tau’s exploits during his Uefa Champions League debut brought the country to a standstill on Tuesday, further underlining his emergence as a genuine superstar in the making.
Not since Benni McCarthy lifted the prestigious European club competition cup with FC Porto in 2004, or since Steven Pienaar stole the thunder from Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira in 2003, have South African soccer fans had something so big to brag about.
Tau’s success comes as we are still reeling from the shock of not having Caster Semenya or Wayde van Niekerk at the global athletics championships in Qatar.
It goes without saying that the two stars would have won South Africa two medals or more in Doha, perhaps as a salve to the underwhelming performances that our team subjected us to the whole week.
But a new hero has certainly emerged in the form of Tau. The European media was almost unanimous in its praise of the 2017/18 PSL footballer of the season award winner, with the Belgian press going as far as rating the performance of the Club Brugge striker seven out of 10.
Tau’s vision and quality on the ball contributed to Brugge getting a point off a star-studded Real Madrid – who are coached by the legendary Zinedine Zidane – in their own back yard at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
However, the rave reviews don’t mean Tau is suddenly a world beater. To earn such a ranking, Tau is well aware that he must perform consistently at the highest level for a number of years.
Nevertheless, Tuesday’s game gave a strong indication that he has the talent to aim for such a status.
Tau’s modesty and bravery also set him apart from many of his peers.
I observed the same qualities in the late Bafana Bafana defender Jacob Lekgetho, who I was privileged to write a story about while he was plying his trade at Lokomotiv Moscow in Russia.
Like Tau, Bobo – as the dreadlocked player was fondly called – also played against the yesteryear superstars of Madrid in the Champions League.
Lekgetho did not let fame go to his head, and nor did Bennett Mnguni, who even scored against Madrid in 2002.
But if there is one thing that would help Tau prolong his stay abroad, it would be to embrace the culture and language of his adopted home.
Lekgetho spoke fluent Russian. The same can be said about the band of South African players who played in Turkey after the country’s readmission to international sports, including Maimane Phiri, Fani Madida and Steve Komphela, to name but a few. They were true ambassadors.
In the midst of the hype of witnessing Tau outfoxing accomplished defenders such as Sergio Ramos and company on Tuesday, the banter between South Africans and Brugge on social media added a nice flavour to the Tau euphoria.
Through its official Twitter account, Club Brugge won our hearts with its tongue-in-cheek post on Wednesday.
“Sooo, does our performance last night have anything to do with the Twitter outage?
“We’re looking at you, South Africa,” noted the Belgians, much to the delight of Mzansi.
In the South African public, Brugge can claim to have an unofficial supporters’ club in Africa.
Thanks for playing along, Club Brugge. We hope coach Philippe Clement will once again acknowledge the importance of having Tau in the starting line-up against a Neymar-led Paris Saint-Germain on October 22.
- Follow me on Twitter @DanieMothowagae