Khune readies for São Tomé

Amakhosi goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune has been with the Bafana Bafana squad in camp ahead of a double header of vital Group C of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifying games against the islanders from São Tomé and Principe. The Chiefs keeper deems it vital for South Africa to win as they hope to keep pace with group leaders Ghana and keep off Sudan as they look to solidify a place at the rescheduled Africa Cup of Nations in 2021. 

As a result of a memorandum of understanding between the South African Football Association and the São Toméan Federation, both games will take place in South Africa. The games will be staged in Durban and Port Elizabeth on 13 and 16 November, respectively. While São Tomé might be minnows in world football, Khune who’s been capped 91 times by South Africa is not taking them lightly. “In qualifying for the 2019 AFCON, we defeated Seychelles 6-0 at home and drew 0-0 with them in the next game,” explains Khune. “The second result made it hard for us because we had to go to Tunisia and defeat Libya to qualify in our last game. We’ve got to respect every opponent and not underestimate them and don’t want a mountain to climb by not winning our games.”

Khune also feels that Bafana Bafana need to make the most of the fact that both these games are in South Africa. “We must take advantage of being at home for these games. We need these six points especially with the two games against Sudan and Ghana after that. Winning will put us in a strong position to qualify.” 

The history of the fixture is also not escaping Khune as São Tomé will become the 46th different CAF member association that Bafana Bafana will be facing since their re-introduction to international football in 1992. Of the historical occasion he said: “It’s great history to be part of these types of games when we play against opponents that the country has not previously faced. It will be important to make the country proud by winning and getting the points. If I play, I will aim to keep clean-sheets and if I am on the bench, I will do my best to support the guys.”

Should Khune feature in the 2021 AFCON qualifying campaign, it will be the fifth time he will be participating in qualifying games for AFCON. He first played for Bafana Bafana in March 2008. He will be looking to use his past experiences to help the national team get to Cameroon. 

“From my experience, I know that every game is different,” he added. “Every opponent brings something new. Having played in qualifying games before, I will try to use this experience to help particularly the new guys settle and overall to help draw on these experiences to help the team perform at our best level. I have been fortunate to have been in the national team for so many years now and be the country’s second highest capped player. Many coaches and players past and present have helped me serve my country with honour and I must be grateful for this.”

Bafana Bafana will take on São Tomé on Friday at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.  Kick-off for the game at 21:00. The second game will take place at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Monday at 15:00. Chiefs midfielder Lebogang Manyama is currently also in camp with Khune in the Bafana Bafana set up.