Bafana need more Taus, Lakays and Fosters

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Sport | Soccer

Percy Tau has reminded South Africans of how dangerous he can be when he is in the mood to tame alligators. He was Percy the menace when his brace helped Al Ahly put a foot in the final of the Caf Champions League. His second goal was special, a jawdropping solo run that took a maze of Esperance defenders on a merry dance before dunking it into the net and reducing Friday night’s second leg into an academic exercise as Ahly stormed into the final 4-0 on aggregate. He became a beacon of hope when Brighton & Hove Albion signed him for a (then) record transfer fee but work permit complications saw him shunted to Belgium on loan. When his four-year contract with Brighton ended, Graeme “Harry” Potter deemed him surplus to requirements. Tau decided to reunite with his former Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane at Ahly in a move many detractors decried as a downgrade. Prophets of doom disapproved of the move. At the top of their voices they predicted doomsday for his career when Mosimane left the Club of the Century to take up a coaching job with second division Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia. Somewhat blighted by a loss of form, Tau was destined for the exit door after Mosimane’s departure loomed as a large possibility in the eyes of his naysayers who further disparaged him. An assortment of injuries derailed him in his early months and the stop-start situation disrupted his momentum. In the eyes of the choir of disapproval, Tau was well and truly on the way to becoming a man forgotten. “We told you so,” mocked the detractors. It was only a matter of time before the prophecy of his return from “superior” Europe to “inferior” Africa was disproved. He continued fighting and stayed his course. Grandpa Hugo Broos must have been pleased by the performance as he dunked his rusks while watching the match. This was the Tau the Bafana Bafana boss and millions more expect to see in the 2023 Afcon in Ivory Coast next year. When Tau is selfless and suppresses his selfish streak, he makes the team tick. Because he is the poster boy of South African soccer he is at times consumed with the thought that he has to do it all by himself. He sometimes plays as if he alone carries the hopes of the country on his shoulders. Those who watch Bafana matches carefully would have observed that on occasion the Lion opts to take a shot at goal when playing a pass to a teammate would have been a better option for the team to score. Still, he remains Bafana’s star player. Tau has traversed a less travelled path in recent years. South African players do not see north Africa as a destination to further develop their football. For some strange reason they see it as unfashionable. Lyle Lakay is the only other man from the south plying his trade in the Egyptian Premier League for the Pyramids. The confines of home comforts have curtailed the progression of some players. They prefer to be popular patrons at places of enjoyment where they are feted as celebrities rather than pushing themselves beyond the limit and giving vent to their talents. Too many times we’ve seen some leave the borders of the republic only to return to Mzansi a year or two later. No staying power. No desire to dream bigger. Just happy to be home. There has to be a significant shift in mindsets for our soccer stars to challenge themselves in a highly competitive space. At least Lyle Foster will taste English Premier League action with Burnley. One certainly hopes that his coach and former captain of Manchester City, Vincent Kompany, will give him game time and not make him an ornament on the bench. Because Bafana need more Taus, Lakays and Fosters. South Africa is crying out for a steady stream of players testing themselves in the higher echelons. Chilling at shisanyamas and car washes cannot and must not be the ultimate goal.