Tshabalala: 'I remember when we left the hotel Sandton was like a ghost town,there was no one'

12 June 2020 - 08:00 By Marc Strydom
Siphiwe Tshabalala in action during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group during a match between France and Bafana Bafana at the Free State Stadium on June 22, 2010 in Mangaung.
Siphiwe Tshabalala in action during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group during a match between France and Bafana Bafana at the Free State Stadium on June 22, 2010 in Mangaung.
Image: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Siphiwe Tshabalala said like many young boys and girls he had played the “video” of his stunning opening goal of the 2010 World Cup in his mind as a youngster, and to have actually done it is something he can only feel grateful for.

Describing the morning of Friday, June 11, 2010 – 10 years ago – when Bafana Bafana woke up at Southern Sun Grayston Hotel expectant of their opening game of the first World Cup on African soil against Mexico at Soccer City that afternoon, “Shabba” said for him it was a calm start to the day.

Tshabalala described a bus ride from the South Africans' Sandton base that was surreal in that Johannesburg was like a ghost town, with just about every South African that day glued to their television screens for the opening ceremony and the game.

Tshabalala Goal VS Mexico In World Cup 2010 **HD**

“On the day of the game, in the morning, it was just a beautiful day. It was a normal routine – wake up, take a shower, breakfast and then go back to the room and rest,” Tshabalala said.

“And then I received a call from my family that on the eve of the World Cup a group of people had gathered at my grandparents’ house in Phiri [in Soweto] where I grew up, all dressed in Bafana colours, waving their flags and blowing their vuvuzelas. And it really touched me.

“I remember when we left the hotel Sandton was like a ghost town – there was no one. It was just us with the police, the convoy.

“We only saw people at the [Newtown] fan park. And from there the M1 was quiet as well until we arrived at Diepkloof, and it was colourful then.

“And you can imagine the nerves. ‘KG’ [Kagisho Dikgacoi] started the singing on the bus, as we always do. But the singing was different.

“It was emotional. We were happy and passionate as well. We were so eager to be on the field because of the fans.

“When we went on the field for the warm-up, it was great. I was nervous. I remember I sang the national anthem with pride, and that’s my highlight as well.

“And then scoring that goal, the noise in the stadium, the emotions, I was like I was in my own world.

“I had played that video [in his mind] when I was still young, following my dreams, my struggles, my challenges, my journey, all the goals I had scored and games I had played from amateur level, chasing this dream, and then eventually had it paying off at a bigger stage.

“So I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity and the reward after.”

Bafana were notably nervy in the first half but survived several scares to go to the break goalless, took the game to Mexico in the second half and led through Tshabalala’s stunner in the 55th minute. Rafael Marquez equalised in the 79th, and Katlego Mphela struck the post in the 92nd as SA had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

A 3-0 defeat against eventual semifinalists Uruguay in Pretoria and 2-1 win against France in Bloemfontein saw SA exit in the opening round, level on four points with Mexico but with an inferior goal difference.

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