Sibongiseni Gumbi
Football Writer
3 minute read
19 Jul 2016
10:58 am

Goalkeeper poser looms for Da Gama

Sibongiseni Gumbi

I shudder to think what went through Owen da Gama's mind when Itumeleng Khune limped off the pitch in the national Under-23 team's practice game against Bidvest Wits on Monday morning.

With Khune’s injury history, I certainly worried about what it would mean for our team if he were to be withdrawn.

His inclusion in the final Olympic Games squad last week started a few debates, with fans questioning his fitness after he only played a bit-part role for Kaizer Chiefs last season due to repeated injuries.

Others rightfully said he was the right choice because of his experience and prowess between the sticks.

Khune and Jody February are the only goalkeepers in Da Gama’s squad, and before he included Khune, the former Platinum Stars and Orlando Pirates mentor tried Reyaad Pieterse who had a nightmare in the recent Cosafa Cup tournament.

Of course if Khune were to be left behind because of injury, Da Gama would have a fit and capable replacement in February whose heroics in the qualifiers in Senegal ensured our berth in the Brazil spectacle.

But his confidence since then must have taken a hit. Pieterse’s inclusion in the Cosafa team was a sure sign that Da Gama had little faith in February.

And when Pieterse didn’t work out, he then took Khune. I hope for Da Gama’s sake that Khune is, as he revealed, fit as a fiddle, and that yesterday’s incident was nothing serious.

In this week’s issue, we speak to Phakamani Mahlambi, whose Olympic dream was shattered when he was ruled out for the season through injury in February.

The 18-year-old is taking it all in his stride in a way that would make any seasoned professional envious.

Mahlambi tells us that he won’t rush himself in his recovery process, and that he is still young enough to participate in the next Olympics and many other big tournaments in the future.

There is also a story that one hates to tell, but has to. A young player’s career is hanging in the balance while a team and his agent are fighting over a contract.

Karabo Litabe – whom we profiled in our Youth Watch section earlier this year – has won himself a contract with an Absa Premiership team, but Royal Eagles have refused to give him his clearance, claiming he has two years remaining on his deal with them.

The issue has been reported to the players’ union Safpu, and the matter taken to the Premier Soccer League (PSL).

But while all processes take place, Litabe is left hanging. I hope the matter gets sorted out quickly so he doesn’t get left behind while his team-mates – at either Eagles or a new team – carry on with their preparations for the new season.

We also look at Mamelodi Sundowns who have landed their biggest signing in acquiring Sibusiso Vilakazi who has been highly sought after for the past three seasons.

Sundowns are doing sound business both on and off the field, it would seem.

Vilakazi will be a great addition to Pitso Mosimane’s already razor-sharp attack nicknamed the “CBD”.

Vila, as Sibusiso is popularly known in football circles, will definitely add more “vroom-vroom” to the Brazilians’ engine and boost their quest for both local and continental dominance.