Sunday, 13 November 2011
Boo-boys no match for Killer instinct
Katlego Mphela must be wondering what more he has to do to capture the hearts of Bafana Bafana fans.
Taunted by some sections of the Port Elizabeth crowd who demanded his substitution in the first half of the Nelson Mandela Challenge against Ivory Coast on Saturday, ‘Killer’ responded by scoring with a brilliant free kick from 25 yards out to take his international tally to 22 goals in just 42 appearances.
Clearly with the emotions running high, Mphela’s reaction afterwards as he cupped his ear towards supporters and then appeared to push his team-mates away as they attempted to congratulate him told its own story. That Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane was forced to issue a plea to call on the nation to support a player who has scored more international goals than Lionel Messi actually beggars belief, especially when the 26-year-old product of Jomo Cosmos is the only South African who ever looks like scoring these days.
The lack of creativity in a side still clearly reeling from the disappointment of failing to qualify for the African Nations Cup should certainly be of more concern, with the return of captain Steven Pienaar failing to provide Mphela with enough ammunition in front of goal. A midfield of him, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Daylon Classen, Kagisho Dikgacoi and Reneilwe Letsholonyane was full of effort but ultimately lacking the crucial link in the final third. How Mosimane must have wished Ajax Amsterdam’s Thulani Serero had been fit enough to play.
But having found the net against teams like Spain, Serbia, France, Ghana and Egypt, Mphela now finds himself third on South Africa’s top-scorers’ list behind Shaun Bartlett and Benni McCarthy. Yet the fact he remains unappreciated by so many fans remains a mystery.
The equally spectacular free kick against Vicente del Bosque's side in the 2009 Confederations Cup announced his arrival on the international scene more than four years after his debut and Mphela has since 17 goals in just over three years – not bad in a team that has consistently struggled to create chances in that period.
Granted, some of his tally may have been against lesser lights like Thailand and Guatemala but McCarthy’s record of 32 goals from 79 games also included several against minnows and to be in with a chance of overhauling that total is an indication of just how good a player Killer is. And with him only turning 27 later this month, Mphela can write his own piece of history just by letting his feet do the talking.