Chiefs pin-up Khune faces Pirates bogey
Football pin-up Itumeleng Khune is desperate for a change of luck when his Kaizer Chiefs team face arch-rivals Orlando Pirates on Saturday in the South African Premiership.
The Soweto giants, whose rivalry ranks among the biggest on the continent, have already clashed three times since the mid-July start of the season with Pirates winning them all.
National team first choice Khune allowed a shot to slip between his legs and into the net as the Buccaneers won 1-0 in a Vodacom Challenge play-off for the right to face English visitors Tottenham Hotspur. A week later they clashed again in an exhibition match bankrolled by a world brewing giant and after 120 goalless minutes, the Chiefs goalkeeper blazed his penalty over in the shoot-out and handed Pirates the trophy.
Last weekend, Pirates successfully defended the Top 8 Cup - a competition for the leading eight finishers in the previous championship - and Khune was the fall guy once again. His 'crime' was to allow a long-range Oupa Manyisa shot to bounce just before reaching him and then fly over his outstretched arms for the lone goal of a game that went to extra time.
Within hours social network sites were abuzz with criticism of Khune, the son of a mineworker from north-west town Ventersdorp who first sporting love was cricket before joining Chiefs when 17 years old. "Hate me - it is okay. You are making me stronger and I am used to people like you (critics). I can do only so much and need protection as well," Khune tweeted.
It was a rare experience for the clean-cut 24-year-old goalkeeper, who appears on television almost nightly endorsing fried chicken and shoe polish, and Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic rushed to his defence. "My philosophy is that a goalkeeper is never guilty for conceding a goal. If the 10 players in front of him cannot stop a guy from scoring, then he cannot do anything," said the Serb.
Khune was also out of luck in midweek with big-screen replays proving he did not foul an Ajax Cape Town player, but the referee thought otherwise and awarded a penalty which the home team converted en route to a 2-1 victory. It was Chiefs' first league loss after three consecutive victories and left them level with Pirates, one point behind early pacesetters Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United.
Chiefs will lack suspended Zimbabwe midfield 'enforcer' Tinashe Nengomasha at Soccer City while Pirates can call on former Blackburn and West Ham striker Benni McCarthy, who missed the Top 8 triumph because of a two-match ban.