Kekana Opens His Heart

Hlompho Kekana looked like the forgotten man of South African football.  He last played for Bafana Bafana two years ago in Auckland in a goalless draw against New Zealand.  Kekana put his head up and worked his socks off, putting in a sterling performance week in week out for his club Mamelodi Sundowns.

Kekana made his debut in an international friendly clash away in Tanzania in 2011.  As a defensive midfielder, he also chipped in with goals every now and again which have seen his club top of the Absa Premiership table for almost the entire season.  Kekana made a return to Bafana Bafana to face Cameroon in a crucial 2017 Gabon Africa Cup of Nations qualifier and he continued where left off when he scored an amazing goal from his half – his fourth in South African colours in his 15th appearance.

The match ended in a 2-2 draw at Stade Limbe Omnisports in Limbe, Cameroon on Saturday.  South Africa and Cameroon clash again in the return leg at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Tuesday, 29 March.  Kick off is at 19:00.

SAFA Media sat down with Kekana after the 2-2 draw encounter:

Matlhomola Morake:  Your impression of the match?

Hlompho Kekana:  It was a very tactical match; both teams had an attacking mind.  It’s a game we thought we will win but it wasn’t to be.  We gave away the lead too easily but then again a point away from home is also welcome, but we know we could have done better.  But hey this is Cameroon we are talking about here; few teams can achieve what we have done.

MM:  Back in Bafana Bafana after two years and you score a wonder goal?

HK:  I would like to thank the Almighty for giving me the opportunity to be back here again, and seal the return with a goal.  It is something I have been working hard at my game because it has always been a dream of mine to return to the national team.  I am glad I was able to contribute to the success of the team, even though we got a point and I believe in the next match we will get the required three points.
 
MM:  A good goal scored, take us through it …

HK:  This started at training at my club some four months back.  I always check how the goalkeepers leave their lines when the opposition is attacking – being on the edge of the box, but then again it’s the modern game that allows them to do that.  After we dispossesed Cameroon I looked up and saw the keeper well off his line and I took a chance, thankfully it went in.

MM:  The excitement showed how much you valued the goal …

HK:  Yes, I was very excited because I have been trying to score such goals at my club but could not.  At training I would hit more than ten balls with none going in and it was frustrating.  But when the goals come in a match of the calibre against Cameroon it always brings joy – and not only to me but to my teammates and the entire country which shows just how much the goals means to everyone, not just to me.  So this goal is for them.

MM:  The position we are in is not the best in the qualifiers …

HK:  Yes definitely not, we should not be where we are at the moment.  We know how important the points are in this group and if we have to start collecting them, which makes the Durban match a very crucial one.  A win there will enhance our chances and we know we are very capable of doing that, we just need to apply ourselves a little better and try to minimise mistakes.

MM:  We could have sealed the game …

HK:  At times we made just too many errors and if we rectify that we can win a match on any day.  Today we could have defended better, we made them look good.

MM:  The Durban game is a must win, a loss or draw is unthinkable …

HK:  We really have to win that match, we have no more options left as we are left with nine points to play for seeing that we only have two after three matches.  Three points will take us closer to the leaders with two matches remaining and we have to fight . I believe in this team and still think that we stand a chance of going to Gabon.
 
Bafana Bafana and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will meet again in the return leg in Durban on Tuesday at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.  Tickets are still on sale at Computicket, Shoprite and Checkers for R80 all round.

Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI