Down History Lane: Tshabalala’s famed 2010 goal

As Miguel Delaney, the Independent UK Chief football writer puts it: “If there is no feeling on a football pitch like scoring the winning goal in a World Cup final, there are few off it like the atmosphere of anticipation before such game.”

While scoring a goal is each forward-thinking player’s objective, doing it in the biggest international tournament in football is every player’s dream. Given the state of the world, I hope we have realized how insipid and melancholy life is without any live sporting events, football particularly. Watching SuperSports’ Re-live did not prove to be much of a waste, as I found myself nostalgic and decided to reminisce through one of the greatest triumphs South African football has gone through.

South African being declared the host of 2010 FIFA World Cup was a dignifying moment—a special moment in South Africa’s post-Apartheid Era. It was a time of especially rigid conformity and will be remembered eternally for greater parts of South African football.

South Africa is the youngest country in the African continent to obtain its independence (this is somehow ironic given the ascendancy and monopoly they’ve held and the greater heights they’ve reached in the continent). So, when the then FIFA president Josep Blatter declared South Africa as the host of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, parades ensued. People across townships assembled with pure ecstasy, making it truly a monumental time.

Perhaps, if you weren’t privileged enough to watch the opening match (RSA vs Mexico), this piece should be at least helpful to navigate you through.

At that time, schools were closed for an entire month, everyone needing to witness this weighty, hefty historical moment. It was on June 11. We had been gathered in a neighbourhood house, for it was one of the few households which had electricity, let alone a television screen. With a full house, we joined the 84,000 who were able to see the event live. Just before kick-off time, we cheerfully recited the national anthem with our hands held together, shouting ‘Nkos’sikelel’Africa’ at the television.

An alluring, enthralling end-to-end first half was such a treat. We all wanted the goal, of course, but the run of play was as exciting as it was when South Africa played Spain in 2009 Confederation Cup, where Katlego Mphela scored a belter free kick. It ended 0-0 in the interval.

The second half was underway, and Bafana were threatening the Mexicans. The game is at its climax. Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Katlego Mphela were exchanging the ball, the latter sliding it to Teko Modise. He slipped it deep behind Mexico’s defence to set up Siphiwe Tshabalala and, as the iconic, legendary poetic football commentator, Peter Drury recited: “TSHABALALA! GOAL BAFANA BAFANA! GOAL FOR SOUTH AFRICA! GOAL FOR ALL AFRICA. REJOICE!”

It was in the 55th minute. It was a unifying moment, one which has been written in South Africa’s football lore. The Mexicans would go on to equalise in the 79th minute, albeit in a heart-breaking manner, which somehow fettered the Bafana famous win.

“It was history in the making. I feel honoured and grateful at the same time.” Tshabalala said after the match. There was no way the Mexican goalkeeper could have gotten to that ball to salvage it from entering the net. He had glanced at it, as it was diagonally executed. It was just poetry in motion for South Africa.

“I still get goosebumps. The date itself is marked by receiving messages from all quarters. It is a special day in my career,” the Kaizer Chiefs star said. “This was one of the most beautiful goals in the world.” commented the three-time World Cup winner with Brazil, Pele.

There are few historical moments as worthy in South African football, but this was one. It was a goal that changed the South African football dimension. It was a seismic day in our nation.

Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images

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