Bafana Bafana's unlikely shot-stopper
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South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune may have adopted the role by accident, but he is now considered among the best on the continent ahead of the 2013 CAF Africa Cup of Nations.

Desperate to support his family financially, he moved from north-western town Tshing to Johannesburg when only 12 for trials with one the country's leading clubs, Kaizer Chiefs. Fielded as a defender, the teenager developed chest problems during an age-limit trial and was ordered to stand beside a goalpost and become a ball boy.

As he dived spectacularly to block balls that missed the target, Khune caught the attention of a youth coach and a career that would take him to the national team had begun. He was promoted to the first team squad and after a three-year wait got his chance when first choice keeper Rowan Fernandez was transferred to a German Bundesliga club.

After making his debut against Jomo Cosmos at the start of the 2007/08 South African Premiership, Khune quickly made the No1 jersey his own and the Amakhosi conceded only 19 goals in the 30-round league. His international debut came less than a year later in a friendly against Zimbabwe and he has been the first choice for Bafana Bafana since amid several coaching reshuffles.

If he route to the national side wasn't already unlikely enough, as a child Itumeleng preferred cricket to football, idolising former Protea Nicky Boje. However, with his miner father his family's breadwinner, he opted for the more profitable football route to sporting fame.

Sensational against A Seleção
Since donning the colours of South Africa, Khune has so far reserved his best form for against Brazil, giving a couple of outstanding performances in narrow home and away losses against the record five-time world champions. It took a spectacular Dani Alves free-kick three minutes from time to beat him in a 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final at a packed Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg. Last September in Sao Paulo, Khune stood between a Bafana team under new coach Gordon Igesund and a hiding, pulling off one spectacular stop after another before Hulk struck a late winner.

But the star seen regularly on South African TV advertising fried chicken and shoe polish has less fond memories of another South American nation - Uruguay - having been sent off against them in a 2010 FIFA World Cup group game. Uruguay converted the resultant penalty en route to a 3-0 win and South Africa became the first FIFA World Cup hosts not to reach the second round.

Igesund feels the way the 25-year-old Khune turns defence in offence as a key asset for the national side, who face debutants Cape Verde Islands, Angola and former champions Morocco in the first round. "The distribution of Itumeleng Khune is phenomenal. He can initiate attacks with incredibly accurate throws and goal kicks," he told reporters after a training session.

Despite inevitable dips in form, Khune has held off various challengers, including Moeneeb Josephs from fierce domestic rivals Orlando Pirates, and is set to play a leading role at the Cup of Nations.