Shabba’s best Bafana moments
Posted: 6 November 2017 Time: 17:00
There were many raised eyebrows, but collective nods in agreement when Stuart Baxter named Siphiwe Tshabalala in his Bafana Bafana squad for the all-or-nothing clashes against Senegal.
South Africa’s back-to-back fixtures against the Lions of Teranga will be two of the most crucial games played in recent memory, with a ticket to the World Cup in Russia next year on the line.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, as head coach Baxter has turned to the stalwart of his previous Kaizer Chiefs side, Tshabalala, to bring experience, calmness and leadership to this all-important camp.
Recalling the experienced winger from his four-year hiatus, Baxter admits the call-up was about the “here and now” and not for the future, with 'Shabba' himself confident in his ability to deliver at the highest level.
With that in mind, KickOff.com looks at Tshabalala’s top five moments in a Bafana Bafana shirt:
Tshabalala became one of the first players from the National First Division to receive a national team call-up, earning the honour while turning out for Free State Stars. The late Ted Dumitru fielded the then-21-year-old winger in a friendly on 14 January 2006 against African giants Egypt ahead of the 2006 Nation’s Cup, with Shabba entering the fray in the 61st minute in a surprise 2-1 victory for Bafana against the tournament hosts.
Despite being a regular in the national team set-up, it took Shabba 17 games to record his first goal in South African colours. At a packed Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville, against opponents ranked over 40 places above Bafana in the FIFA rankings, Tshabalala received a short pass from Benni McCarthy just outside the area, brought the ball onto his favoured left foot and cleverly chipped the goalkeeper to score South Africa’s third goal in a resounding 3-0 friendly victory over Paraguay. The game will also be remembered for McCarthy’s 30th national team goal, breaking Shaun Bartlett’s previous record of 29.
We all know it, we’ve all watched it countless times, yet shivers still run down the spine when remembering Shabba’s iconic opening strike against Mexico in the 2010 World Cup on home soil. Making a run down the left, Shabba received Kagisho Dikgacoi’s defence-splitting pass before rifling home from just inside the box to score the very first goal of the first global football spectacle on African soil. That was Shabba’s seventh goal in what was his 50th appearance for the national team, a strike that would be nominated by FIFA as a Goal of the Year contender. Shabba was also named SAFA Footballer of the Year in 2010.
Tshabalala wore the armband for the first time in August 2011, leading Bafana Bafana following a groin injury which injured then-captain Steven Pienaar. The Amakhosi winger skippered his side to a 3-0 victory over Burkina Faso in a friendly played at Ellis Park, registering his name on the scoresheet for his eighth national team goal. Mphela’s brace, scored on either side of Shabba’s strike, secured the comfortable victory for Pitso Mosimane’s men.
Tshabalala’s 88th, and last cap to date, was earned in a 3-1 loss to Nigeria in Cape Town in January 2014, as Bafana Bafana bowed out of CHAN in the group stages. Now, over three-and-a-half years later, after solid showings at club level in the gold and black, Shabba has earned a recall as he hopes to guide the new Bafana crop to Russia 2018. The dreadlocked midfielder’s return is reminiscent of goalkeeper Mark Anderson, who, after last playing for the country in 1993, had to wait four years for his next appearance.
It is interesting to note that with Shabba in the team, Bafana hold a decent record. Of the 88 games he has played for South Africa, 41 were wins, 23 were draws and 24 were lost, with a win percentage of 47%.
And of the 12 goals he has scored for the national team – the last being in a friendly 2-0 victory over Burkina Faso in August 2013 – nine were scored in friendlies, one was at the World Cup proper, and two were in World Cup qualifiers, against Equatorial Guinea (October 2008) and Central African Republic (June 2013).
Can Shabba complete his fairytale return by becoming the nation’s hero once more and adding to that tally? Wouldn’t that be something …