Itumeleng Khune vows to fight back to being Chiefs' and Bafana's No 1 again
Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune has vowed to get back into his club and the Bafana Bafana starting line-up through sheer hard work, despite age by his own admission no longer being on his side.
The 32-year-old international goalkeeper was between the sticks this past weekend when the Phefeni Glamour Boys defeated GladAfrica Championship side Royal Eagles 1-0 in the Last 32 of the Nedbank Cup.
After being out since late September last year due to an already long-term injury, Khune made only his third appearance in the 2019/20 season, after an unsuccessful two-match comeback in September.
“Age is no longer on my side any more,” the goalkeeper admitted this week.
“Yes, we as goalkeepers age like wine, but I have to make sure I invest in my body. I have to make sure I do extra work and stay fit.
“The more I keep working hard at training the more I will convince the coaches that I deserve to be back in the team.”
Khune, Bafana’s 2010 World Cup goalkeeper who dominated the No 1 jersey not just for club but also country for more than a decade, has not just endured a period of injury. It has coincided with some life changes too.
Last week Khune announced that and he and his wife, Sphelele Makhunga, had welcomed a baby girl, Zee.
Now, traditional marriage in November, new baby and injuries out of the way, Khune appears set on working hard to get his playing career back on track, emphasising that he has never felt entitled to the Bafana and Chiefs No 1 jerseys.
While Khune was recovering from his shoulder and groin injuries, Amakhosi have had Daniel Akpeyi between the posts, and the Nigerian international has been on form, playing a key role in Chiefs being nine points clear at the top of the Absa Premiership.
Khune, the 2012-13 PSL Footballer of the Season, said he supports Akpeyi.
“I have been working very hard to get back into the team but Daniel hasn’t made it easy for me. He deserves all my support. What we have is a healthy competition,” said Khune.
“We are giving the coach a good headache on whom to choose.”
The two-time league champion with 89 Bafana caps to his name promised to reclaim his spot as No 1 goalkeeper at Chiefs and Bafana.
“I will bounce back and I will make sure I perform very well on the field to reclaim my position at Chiefs and Bafana.
“I will work hard to reclaim. That’s where [Chiefs and the national team] I have been for years. So, it’s very hard for that transition given that I have been No 1 for such a very long time. So I need to get back to my best in order for me to reclaim.”
“So, I will work hard when nobody sees.”
The log leaders will hope to extend their lead on Saturday when they face sixth-placed Maritzburg United at the FNB Stadium (kickoff 6pm).