Khune: I’ll fight to be No1

Few would argue that Itumeleng Khune is a goalkeeper of significant talent and zeal. Why, then, has there been so much doubt over his prospects of becoming South Africa's regular No1?

The answer probably lies with critics being too hasty and harsh in passing judgement on the 21-year-old, who has been touted to keep goal for Bafana Bafana at both the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, with his selection often a subject of intense debate.

Khune is, nevertheless, high on confidence, but this is often a double-edged sword for him. Advantageously, it has aided his ascent, but at times it has been his Achilles heel. "There is nothing wrong with confidence," the Kaizer Chiefs player told

"I'm young but I don't like using age as an excuse. If you have talent and are given an opportunity, you must grab the opportunity with both hands and not rely on excuses. Some people say I'm too young, but to me that doesn't matter. I want to be judged on my performances."

Some people say I'm too young, but to me that doesn't matter. I want to be judged on my performances.
Itumeleng Khune on his fight to become South Africa's first-choice goalkeeper.

Khune arrived at the Chiefs Village in 1999 as a defender, but assumed the gloves by chance after he experienced stomach cramps during a junior game. Last season he made his South African Premiership debut, and set tongues wagging with some match-winning performances that salvaged what might have been a mediocre season for Kaizer Chiefs. However, this term has been a reality check for the youngster. While he has excelled in patches, consistency has eluded him.

"The second season is always tough for any player," he explained. "I'm not a unique case. Opponents take time to study your game and weaknesses. What is required for me to do is to work harder to cover up my weaknesses. I have to perform consistently to earn my place."

Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana has admitted he is still searching for his first-choice goalkeeper, and has been quick to emphasise that he is spoilt for choice. At present, three contenders - namely Khune, Moeneeb Josephs and Rowen Fernandez - appear at the front of the pecking order.
The latter was long expected to succeed Hans Vonk as his country's regular goalkeeper when the former Ajax man retired, but the rapid emergence of Khune has thrown the debate wide open.

"I have nothing but respect for all the guys competing for the jersey," said Khune. "At the end of the day, it will come down to who wants it the most. I know that it won't be handed to me, I have to work hard for it, I have to earn it and I'm ready to fight for it."