If there was such a thing as a COVID-19 double-blow victim then it would certainly be Black Leopards captain Thabo Matlaba.
Not only was the 32-year-old affected as the Premier League season came to a sudden halt, but he was also due to make a comeback to the Bafana Bafana set up after a four-year absence.
Matlaba was part of Coach Molefi Ntseki’s 25-man squad that was due to play against Sao Tome and Principe in back-to-back AFCON qualifiers last month.
But just like any other football activity all over the world, the qualifiers have been postponed to a date yet to be announced.
“Yah I was disappointed to be honest with you but it is something that was beyond my control because this COVID-19 pandemic came as I was to make a comeback to the national team,” Matlaba told FARPost.
“The health of the nation comes first but I am still keeping fit and training very hard. I am still hopeful of another call up to the national team because I will not stop working hard. Even now I am doing myself a favour here at home training very hard to ensure that I am always fit,” he said.
The last time Matlaba played for the South African national team was during the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Burkina Faso in 2016.
“It remains my target to represent my national team until I stop playing football and I don’t think there is nothing that will stop me from doing that as long as I am consistent in my performances,” said the former Orlando Pirates skipper.
It remains unlikely that any international matches will be played this year given the fact that all Leagues all over the world are on pause, meaning Matlaba who turns 33 in December will have to wait again next year for another call up, if the COVID-19 is a thing of the past.
DO YOU REMEMBER THIS GOAL?
Matlaba’s strike against Central African Republic at Cape Town Stadium in 2015 is considered amongst the best Bafana Bafana goals ever. WATCH BELOW.
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By Ofhani Munyai