The Amakhosi stalwart earned a surprise switch to Turkish club BB Erzurumspor at the end of August, ending a memorable 12-year association with the Soweto giants as he finally earned a move abroad at the age of 33.
Ex-Bafana Bafana winger Buckley, who enjoyed a successful 14 years in Europe while featuring for clubs in Germany, Switzerland and Cyprus, admits he was surprised to see ‘Shabba’ make the move so late in his career, but backs his former national team teammate to still produce the goods in Turkey.
“I was shocked, but I feel you’re never too old to play anywhere,” he tells KickOff.com.
“At 33 I was still playing in Germany. And Shabba still has it in his bones – you saw when he played for Chiefs, he can still run 90 minutes, and the Turkish League, to be honest, isn’t too hard. There’s only three teams that fight for the championship, and the rest are usually soundly beaten. But I’m sure he’ll have fun.”
Tshabalala, who received a hero’s welcome upon his arrival at the airport, is yet to shine for his new club though: in the six official matches they’ve played since his arrival, the South African has only started twice – lasting just 43 minutes in his sole league start before being hauled off, while getting 87 minutes in a cup victory over third-tier side Ankara Demirspor – while featuring for just 24 minutes in two further league matches as a substitute.
And Buckley, with his knowledge of the Turkish, warns that the South African will need to be at the top of his game in order to survive.
“One thing with the Turkish: when you arrive, they love and embrace you, but the minute you don’t produce, that’s when you see the other side of them,” he says. “I heard a lot of stories from players I played with who were in Turkey, and had to duck into cars and were smuggled into Germany because they weren’t allowed to leave Turkey, and they weren’t paid for three months. So Shabba needs to ensure he’s on top form, otherwise they might make his life a misery.”
Tshabalala’s club Erzurumspor currently sit rock-bottom of the Turkish Super Lig table with just one win and a total of five points from their opening eight matches, and next travel to fifth-placed Trabzonspor on Monday, 22 October following the culmination of the FIFA international break.