Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune has broken a long-standing goalkeeping record after he ran out against Angola in an international friendly match on Tuesday at the Cape Town Stadium. Khune played his 68th match to become the most capped South African goalkeeper, surpassing the record of 67 set by Andre Arendse. Khune made his Bafana Bafana debut in 2008 in an international match against Zimbabwe which South Africa won 2-1.
He has been beaten 51 times and being sent off only once in South African colours – in the 2010 FIFA World Cup clash against Uruguay. SAFA Media sat down with him to congratulate him on the record-breaking achievement.
Matlhomola Morake: Itumeleng congratulations on your achievement, how are you feeling?
Itumeleng Khune: I am very proud of the journey I have travelled since making my debut in 2008 when I was given the opportunity by former Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. I never looked back and I told myself that I need to grab this opportunity with both hands and this is exactly the dream I wanted to live. Since then I told myself that I need to go all the way and get as many caps as I can and represent my country well. I wanted to help South Africa to be competitive at the highest level, so I am proud of that achievement. All I can promise the fans is that I am still looking to grow stronger and achieve more. I would also like to thank all the coaches who had faith in me and continued to give me a chance to showcase my talent, not forgetting the fans out there who have backed up from day one both at national team and club level. Those are the people we play for week in week out and they inspire us to do better.
MM: SA has been blessed with great goalkeepers over the years, and you broke the record of one of them, Andre Arendse.
IK: It’s a proud moment for me, especially after having to compete with the past generations of goalkeepers this country has produced like Brian Baloyi, Emille Baron, Hans Vonk – who happened to be the goalkeeper coach when I got to Bafana Bafana. I have played with great goalkeepers who have been very supportive and competitive at the same time so they are the ones who pushed me because they kept me on my toes. I am also glad I got to inspire many a goalkeeper in the country especially in the townships because of the professionalism and hard work I have put in in the last 12 years I have been in the PSL.
MM: Having reached this milestone, are you now hungry for more?
IK: Of course, I am hungry for more success. I feel this is just the beginning of good things to come. Make no mistake I am happy about my achievement but I am not satisfied yet because of the position where Bafana Bafana finds itself at the moment in terms of rankings – we need to be in the top ten in the world and top five on the continent, so we still have a long way to go. I would not like to focus on myself much but rather on the team.
MM: Did you at any stage of your career think you could surpass this milestone set by Andre?
IK: To be honest I wasn’t looking at breaking any record but I was only focussing on my game, and the club’s or the country’s goals because it is always important that when the team does well personal accolades will go to those who contributed to the success. If you put yourself first and the team fails then you won’t achieve anything, that is what I taught myself that I need to put the team first then the rest will follow.
MM: What would you say to Andre?
IK: First of all I would say thank you very much for paving the way for us because we the current generation can then pave the way for future generations. You inspired some of us during your playing days and we will forever be grateful for all you have done. I would also urge all the goalkeepers in this country to continue working hard, the doors are not closed and everything is possible. Hopefully someday someone will come and break this record I hold today. Arendse won the AFCON for South Africa in 1996 so it would also be nice for me as well to celebrate this achievement having won something for the country.
MM: What’s your impression of the match against Angola?
IK: It was a tough match, they gave a run for our money, made it very difficult for us. They showed us no respect but we managed to play our kind of game and we ended up breaking their defence and getting two goals. It was great for the team to win after such a long time. Angola is a very good team and pushed us all the way.
MM: Must be double celebration for you to break the record on the day the squad also wins especially when we haven’t won in a long time?
IK: Most definitely, it’s a great achievement. But it would have been even sweeter if this was the result we got on Saturday (13 June against Gambia) because today (against Angola) we were able to create and convert our chances, but on Saturday we just couldn’t even though we played well. We just need to believe in ourselves and it will come, and that performance could perhaps take us to 2017, 2018 and beyond.
MM: How much does the win against Angola help ahead of Saturday’s clash with Mauritius?
IK: It’s a good morale booster for us. But we should not go there thinking that Mauritius did not do well against Ghana in the AFCON qualifiers (Ghana defeated Mauritius 7-1). It is not going to be a walk in the park for us. They are coming here wounded and could be dangerous as they might want to hurt us if we underestimate them. We need to approach the game with a positive mind and a hunger to win. We should not let this win against Angola get to our heads, it is now in the past we have to move on. We want to qualify for CHAN as it will be good for us in building up towards to other tournaments.
MM: Going back to Saturday against Gambia, what does that result mean considering Cameroon beat Mauritania the next day?
IK: It is sad that we dropped points at home. In matches like these when you come up against teams ranked lower, you need to score as much as you can especially when playing at home so that when you visit them they have respect for you. Also with one team qualifying for the tournament it is crucial that we collect points early on so we don’t play catch up. Going away we need to make sure we attack from the onset because you cannot get there and sit back – I think they will want to attack. We must go there for a win. Cameroon won and they are top of the group, so we are under pressure even though it is still early days. But then again we put ourselves in that situation so we need to get ourselves out of that situation by winning the next game and then we take it from there.