South Africa hero Siphiwe Tshabalala recalls goal which changed his life forever

Ten years ago on Thursday, Siphiwe Tshabalala’s life changed forever.

The attacking midfielder became a household name not just in his native South Africa but all around the world after he burst through the Mexico defence and slammed the ball into the top corner in front of a partizan, vuvuzela-dominated crowd in Johannesburg in the first match of the 2010 World Cup.

“Goal Bafana Bafana! Goal for South Africa! Goal for ALL of Africa!” shrieked Peter Drury as an entire continent erupted in joy.

Tshabalala became a national hero as a result of the goal, and now even has a street named after him in Johannesburg.

A decade on, Tshabalala tells Mirror Sport he still does not tire of recounting his big moment.

“I’ll definitely never get bored of watching it,” he says via Zoom. “It was one of the most important goals, not just of my career, but in the history of African football, and it also got the recognition of the rest of the world.

“It changed my life, in a positive way. Ten years later people still talk about the goal and I still get goosebumps as well when we talk about it or when I watch the clip again. It made a huge impact in other people’s lives as well.”

2010 was the first and only time an African country has hosted football’s biggest competition, and Tshabalala remembers the occasion with fondness.

“It was an amazing moment for Africa,” he continues. “It was a proud moment for all of us having been given the chance to host one of the biggest sporting events in the world and we did exceptionally well.

“We met the standards, the stadiums were great, people felt safe and welcome and to be part of it was something special and a dream come true.

“From a building perspective everything is still there. Nothing died after the World Cup, the stadiums are still in a good condition and are being used well.”

South Africa were ultimately knocked out before the knockout stage despite garnering a highly-respectable four points from a tough group which included France and Uruguay as well as Mexico.

It was Ghana who ended up carrying the continent’s hopes before they were cruelly denied at the quarter-finals by the infamous Luis Suarez handball on the line.

Tshabalala is confident that it will not be too long before we see the first African champions of the world.

“In terms of football, we’re not there yet but we’re slowly improving,” he says. “It will definitely happen, hopefully soon. A lot of African players are now in the top five best leagues in the world, and that’s how you get the experience of playing against the best and showing your quality at that level.”

Tshabalala, who was playing for South African team Kaizer Chiefs at the time of the World Cup, was courted by a number of European sides following his wonder-goal, and he revealed he also had an encounter with Arsene Wenger at the tournament.

“There were a lot of offers. It was unfortunate that nothing happened in the end and it just didn’t work out.

“There was a team from Turkey, there were sides in Belgium. PSG were mentioned, as well as some Premier League teams.

“I remember I bumped into Arsene Wenger at the World Cup and we had a chat for about ten minutes. He wished me well and mentioned he knew something about the interest from PSG.”

To mark the anniversary of his landmark goal, Tshabalala is bringing out a children’s book about his experiences of coming from a humble background to become a global superstar, and hopes it will inspire the next generation to follow in his footsteps.

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“We wrote a book about my story, which is about where I started and how following my dream as a youngster paid off at the biggest stage with me scoring that beautiful goal.

“It’s a story that I hope will inspire the children, and especially African kids who can have a superhero who they can admire who looks like them to give them hope to dream big.

“And, of course, it’s all a true story.”

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