Siphiwe Tshabalala is an icon‚ Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela said as the 32-year-old midfield star prepares to play in a staggering 29th consecutive Soweto derby today.
Former Bafana Bafana star Tshabalala has long since passed Orlando Pirates defensive stalwart Lucky Lekgwathi’s record of 22 derbies – two years ago – and is now just two games away from 30 of the famous matches.
Having played his first derby in November 2007‚ “Shabba” has not missed another and‚ having been as influential as ever for Chiefs this season‚ is certain to start the Absa Premiership game today against Pirates at FNB Stadium.
“It’s unbelievable. And this is what we expect from star players – that they carry the team‚” Komphela said of Tshabalala’s run of derbies and influence for Chiefs this season. “The one thing that I like about him‚ apar t from his hard work and dedication‚ is his humility. Apart from football‚ he’s an icon.
“The amount of work he does outside of football in changing and affecting people’s lives is unbelievable. “And we can only wish him well‚ and hope that at the end of his era‚ we’re going to have more of the ‘Shabbas’.
“The players who are with him now‚ how much of him can be absorbed so that he can give us something in future?” Often maligned for being considered a soft player in midfield‚ Tshabalala cannot be faulted for the dedication he has shown to Chiefs. The left-footed roaming midfielder has become versatile in positions ranging from left and right wing to playmaker and deeper in central midfield‚ or even centre-forward as “false No 9”.
He was instrumental in Chiefs’ league and cup doubles of 2012-13 and 2014-15. This season‚ while Amakhosi were labouring somewhat in the first half of the season‚ Tshabalala still performed. And in Chiefs’ re – vival in fortunes from December, he has weighed in with four goals and many assists.
Asked how important the veteran is to fourth-placed Amakhosi’s cause as they attempt to keep in touch with the title race‚ Komphela said: “Crucial. Very. And we pray that he stays injury-free.” Tshabalala is a big-match temperament player‚ whose favourite ground is FNB‚ where he scored the famous opening goal of the 2010 World Cup for Bafana against Mexico‚ and often performs in the derby. Komphela will be looking for another big performance from Tshabalala today.
Meanwhile, after a slow start, soft-spoken Orlando Pirates winger Riyaad Norodien has been a sensation since his arrival in Johannesburg from Ajax Cape Town last year‚ and wants to continue his eye-catching performances to further endear himself to fans. Norodien said he had joined Pirates to feature in high-stakes matches and was looking forward to today’s challenge. Pirates go into this big clash in 10th position and in desperate need of a win.