There was a time when South African football suffered from a dearth of good goalkeepers.
In this era, you would hear a few old folks reminiscing about Joseph “Banks” Setlhodi, Patson “Kamuzu” Banda, Frederick “The Cat” Mfeka, Henry “Black Cat” Cele, Herbert “Hanger” Dlamini, Jimmy Bene, Welcome “Star Black” Jama, Benjamin Mfundisi, Louis Kiviet and others.
Some top clubs opted for white goalkeepers at the time. The belief was that you needed a white goalkeeper, centre back and centre forward to have a strong squad.
It was also in this era that the likes of Peter Bala’c, Dave Watterson, Patrick “Sgantsontso” Wasmuth and Mark Anderson made their names in professional football.
Even Gary Bailey, after a knee injury curtailed his career at Manchester United, returned to become a goalkeeping star with Kaizer Chiefs.
Clubs even looked beyond our borders for goalkeepers such as Botende Eshele of the DRC, who kept goal for Chiefs; Victor Nogueira of Argentina, who manned the sticks for Orlando Pirates; Swaziland’s William Shongwe (Chiefs and Pirates); and Marco di Giavampaolo, who did the job for Jomo Cosmos at one stage.
But not any more. The country is awash with talent in this specialised position, where many believe that you have to be a bit eccentric to make it.
The South African development conveyor belt has been churning out top-class goalkeepers.
It is because of this that when Itumeleng Khune was ruled out for months due to injury, Shakes Mashaba did not struggle to find a replacement for Bafana Bafana, slotting in Senzo Meyiwa as goalkeeper and team captain.
Now, after Meyiwa’s shock death, Mashaba did not have to look further than Darren Keet (who plays overseas), Chiefs’ Brilliant Khuzwayo and Platinum Stars’ Siyabonga Mpontshane.
Khuzwayo became a hero when he stood in for Khune in the MTN8 final and made the kind of stupendous saves that saw the silverware go to Naturena.
Mashaba was spoilt for choice as there were calls for him to recall Moeneeb Josephs, who has been enjoying a new lease on life at Bidvest Wits. But we all know by now that the Bafana mentor does not always go with popular choices.
Besides Josephs, other goalkeepers on top form include SuperSport United’s Ronwen Williams. At Pirates, some believe Brighton Mhlongo will fill Meyiwa’s big boots.
How this aspect of the game has been turned around gives us hope that South Africa will one day overcome its main Achilles heel – its failure to score goals.