Form is temporary but class is permanent.
With nothing left to prove in his illustrious career that has spanned over 15 years, the man with a pinpoint and well-executed ball distribution, Itumeleng Khune says he is not concerned by criticism as “critics are there and will always be there.”
Leading up to Bafana Bafana’s back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against Sao Tome and Principe on Friday and Monday, it feels as though a growing number of football-loving fans are eager to write Khune’s career obituary. It’s an unfortunate reality for a 33-year-old goalkeeper who in recent years has been troubled by injuries.
In 2019, Khune lost the Bafana No 1 jersey to Ronwen Williams and at Kaizer Chiefs, Nigerian No 1 Daniel Akpeyi is now the preferred No 1.
Understandably, many were shocked by Khune’s recent call-up in the Bafana side as he didn’t enjoy plenty of game time at club level. However, Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki has explained the shot stopper’s role saying: “The experience of Khune will be important, whether we play him or not.”
Returning to the squad after a two-year absence, the goalkeeper says criticism “brings the best out of every player.”
“I’ve been around for a while, and I think that a strong mentality has kept me going since day one. I always turn negativity to positivity. At the end of the day, the focus is not on me as Itumeleng Khune but as a team,” said Khune.
He is well aware that it won’t be easy to get back into the team with Williams and Darren Keet around but believes his role in Bafana goes beyond playing.
“The guys know exactly what I’ve achieved in my career and I don’t have to remind them of that. They draw inspiration from me, so I don’t have to get to camp and get big headed or start looking down on my teammates,” said Khune.
Khune has built an exceptional goalkeeping reputation over the years and at Chiefs, he won every domestic trophy while he’s the second most capped Bafana player with 91 caps – 16 behind former captain Aaron Mokoena, who holds the record for the number of appearances with 107.
“The presence itself should say a lot. I am not an arrogant player. I am humble and have always been. We are here to work as a team and not individuals.
“There are younger players who get motivated from seeing a player like me who’s been part of the game for more than a decade,” concluded Khune.
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By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi