Thursday, 14 July 2011

Bongani bides his time

It must have been a strange feeling for Bongani Khumalo as he touched down on South African soil early on Thursday morning. Part of the Tottenham Hotspur squad that arrived for their pre-season tour that will take in matches against Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, the 24-year-old may have been on the same flight as the likes of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart but his career in England has yet to really take off.

While Modric and the debate about his future at the club will inevitably be the centre of attention throughout Spurs' sejourn in SA, Khumalo will just be glad to be part of the group having spent time on loan at Preston North End and on the treatment table after sustaining a broken foot that ended ihis season back in April. If things go well, he could even find himself making an official appearance in the Lillywhite shirt for the first time over the next couple of weeks.

But with Spurs widely acknowledged as a genuine top-six side these days, that is probably as good as it is going to get for the immaculately-spoken central defender who still plans to one day finish the degree in finance he abandoned to pursue his football dream. Harry Redknapp's assistant Kevin Bond made no secret of the fact that Khumalo is likely to go out on loan again this season, with Glasgow Rangers or Bristol City the likely destination.

Clearly, they see the player who announced himself on the global stage with the second goal of Bafana's memorable win over France at the 2010 World Cup as one for the future. That is fair enough given Khumalo's experience in English football amounts to a handful of games on loan in the Championship, although the number of defensive frailities at White Hart Lane may mean he is called upon sooner than Redknapp might hope.

But another season outside the spotlight of the English Premier League may actually be just the ticket for him. It's questionable whether a spell at Ibrox would provide a sterner test than Ashton Gate - save for the Champions League experience Khumalo could gain in Scotland - and given the success young defender Steven Caulker has last season at Bristol City, Spurs may look closer to home.

For now, though,Bongani has been given the opportunity to show that he belongs in the company of some of the world's best players. And with the presence of Bafana team-mate Steven Pienaar on tour and the friendlies against two sides he will know very well from his PSL days, South Africa should be the perfect platform to do just that.

Who knows, maybe then Harry will keep him on just a little bit longer?       

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