‘Shabba’ on Bafana, 2010 and now

12 June 2013

Tuesday marked the third anniversary of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, a day on which Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala wrote his name in the history books by becoming the first player to score in the first World Cup held in Africa. His memorable, scorching strike was a fitting opener for the occasion.

Tshabalala is currently in camp with Bafana Bafana in Yaounde, Cameroon where the team is preparing for a crucial World Cup qualifying match against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa on Sunday, 16 June. He took time out to chat to the South African Football Association’s (Safa) media officer Matlhomola Morake about the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Safa Media: Special day today, what memories do you have about it?

Tshabalala: It is a special day indeed as it marks exactly three years since I played my first World Cup tournament, the first ever World Cup tournament to be hosted in Africa. More significantly, I scored the opening goal of the tournament against quality opposition like Mexico.

To this day, the move that led to the goal, the goal itself, the atmosphere and the celebrations thereafter still play in my head as though it happened yesterday. It is one of those memories etched in my mind and will not go away. I felt very privileged to be in the squad and will forever be grateful for that opportunity.

I believe I left a huge legacy and trust that people will forever remember this day which I will always call “The Shabba Day”. I am truly blessed to have not only played on that day but also scored a goal. It remains the most special moment of my life.

Safa Media: Please describe to us the atmosphere.

Tshabalala: It was electrifying, and after the goal it was great to see so many South Africans brought together by a common purpose – sport, football in particular. It is an indescribable feeling, the kind where you had to be there to feel it.

The tournament really united the country. I want to believe that all the players who took part in the tournament will forever cherish that moment.

Safa Media: Has your life improved since the 2010 Fifa World Cup?

Tshabalala: A lot of things have happened since then. I have won numerous individual awards, featured in various adverts, been invited to places and events I never in my wildest dreams thought I would go to. And I have to be grateful for that, largely thanks to the World Cup.

People have shown a lot of respect towards me due to the goal and the way I played. Three years later, I am still in the national team, which indicates I am doing something right. Also, I am still playing for a big team in South Africa (Kaizer Chiefs) and recently won the league and a domestic cup (Nedbank Cup). I have played about 95 percent of the games for club, and haven’t missed out much except when I was injured. So I am happy with my progress so far.

Safa Media: You are a fan favourite, wherever you go fans still shout your name, even here in Cameroon, how do you keep that balance of not letting fame go to your head?

Tshabalala: It is humbling when you go to a foreign country and people acknowledge you and show you some respect. I feel blessed. I really appreciate the people’s feelings towards me. It is vital to keep my feet firmly on the ground though. Fame will come and go, but when one is humble, that is the important thing because humility makes one go far.

Safa Media: 11 June 2013 came a few days after you scored a goal to keep SA’s chances of going to Brazil alive.

Tshabalala: The goal I scored against the Central African Republic (CAR) is an important one as it helped the team to be in a better position, and also have a better goal difference. But it is all about teamwork and that is the main thing that has kept us going strong as a national team. We work with and for each other. Those not playing push those on the field to do better. There is a lot of camaraderie which is key because we do not have special players but are all equal.

Safa Media: Ethiopia will be a lot different to CAR.

Tshabalala: The win against CAR was vital as we now go to Ethiopia very motivated, but we know there is still a lot of work to be done. They are top of the group, which tells you they are a formidable side. Also, they are playing at home, which will make our mission even tougher. But we are professionals and I believe we are up to the challenge.

We know what is at stake here. We must just work harder than in the first match to realise our goals. With the win against CAR, we are in the right frame of mind. We are confident but not over-confident.

Safa Media: You are the most experienced player in the current squad with 78 caps, how much pressure does that put you under?

Tshabalala: Fortunately, we are a group of players that are very experienced and do not look at caps but work as a team. We have been working very well together up to this point. There are several senior players in the team and we all encourage each other to better our game and take the responsibility when the need arises.

Safa Media: More caps to follow?

Tshabalala: I will continue to do the best I can for my club and country. I really appreciate the opportunity I have been given to be part of Bafana Bafana. It is the stuff that dreams are made of. I am on 78 caps and I will take it one game at a time and hopefully also reach the magical 100 caps.

Safa Media: With Botswana and CAR eliminated, this game is must win for us.

Tshabalala: Definitely, I am glad the first obstacle (CAR) is out of the way. Now there is a bigger hurdle that we should overcome. We know they might come at us to unsettle us from the first whistle. We need to be calm and not panic, but play our normal game of ball possession and close them down quickly when we lose the ball.

This is a very important match for us as we all want to see ourselves playing in Brazil 2014. We have tasted how it feels to be there, representing our country on a bigger stage and would not want to miss out. This is one battle that we need to win and we will do our best to get a positive result.

Safa Media: Dreams of playing abroad.

Tshabalala: At the moment I am happy where I am and with how my career is going. I turned professional in 2004/05 in the colours of Free State Stars. We got relegated and I got my first call up while playing in the first division. Obviously my dream was to play abroad, but I always tell myself that I should not force matters. That will come when the time is right and if it does happen I will grab the opportunity with both hands. But if it does not happen, life goes on.

I had offers from overseas, but I felt they were not right because I do not want to leave for the sake of leaving. Right now I am enjoying my football at Chiefs and at 29 I should start thinking about planning for my future – life after football.

Safa Media: Message to the fans who have been with you.

Tshabalala: I really appreciate and value their support. My journey has been long but very exciting. I have had obstacles that I had to overcome to get to where I am. When my form dropped, I got the stick because most fans knew my abilities. I have learned to be strong and take positives out of the whole situation and move on.

So I am really grateful for the support from the fans and my family. Without them I would not have achieved as much as I have.

Source: South African Football Association