Itumeleng Khune has nothing to prove.
The Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper, who was included in the South Africa’s under-23 squad as one of the two overage players at the Olympic Games by coach Owen da Gama, has answered his critics on the field.
Eric Mathoho and Khune were heavily criticised after being selected for the squad. But the pair played an incredible game to help the Young Bafana secure a valuable point against host nation Brazil at the Mane Garrincha Stadium yesterday.
Khune played like a man who was on a mission to prove that he deserves his place in the team. The vastly experienced goalkeeper kept Brazilian super star Neymar at bay with his brilliant saves. And the lanky Mathoho also played his part in the defence.
After the 0-0 draw, Khune had a lot to say regarding his inclusion in the team.
“I never let the doubters get into my head. I don’t have time for critics. I’m professional enough not to be distracted by the critics. I’m a 24/7 professional and don’t allow anything to mess with my head. I always told myself that I will turn negative thoughts into positive things.”
That seemed to have worked. Khune’s leadership at the back, especially after Da Gama’s men were a man down after losing Mothobi Mvala to a red card with half an hour still to play, was truly exceptional.
“I was not intimidated by Neymar. I have played against big players before. It was a big stage and I wanted to showcase my experience. The stadium was full but it’s the same as the Soweto Derby and even more,” Khune mused.
On Sunday, the under-23s play Denmark again at the Mane Garrinch Stadium at 7pm (12am South African time).
Khune added that they could not be satisfied with the draw but had to work harder against Denmark.
South Africa’s motto at this Olympics is “believe” and after the match against Brazil everyone clearly believes that they can do this.
“We believe that is our slogan. We are good enough and the coach told us to believe in ourselves. We are not here to add numbers, we are here to perform for our country,” Kunene said.