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It has been 10 years since South Africa’s Siphiwe Tshabalala wrote his name into FIFA World Cup folklore with his goal against Mexico on 11 June, 2010, the opening day of the tournament in South Africa.

A decade on, “Shabba” as he is famously known takes us on a trip down memory lane with a vivid description of that day and that strike at Soccer City.

Speaking to the South African Football Journalists’ Association on Sunday, Shabba recounted the historic moment from his perspective. Every waking moment appears to be etched into his memory.

“On the day of the game, in the morning, it was just a beautiful day. It was a normal routine — wake up, take a shower, breakfast, and then go back to the room and rest,” Tshabalala says.

“I received a call from my family [who told me that] on the eve of the World Cup, a group of people gathered at my grandparents’ house in Phiri, where I grew up. They were wearing the national team colours, waving the flags, and blowing the vuvuzelas — showing their support. It really touched me.

“I remember when we left the hotel, Sandton was like a ghost town. There was no-one; it was just us with the police, the convoy. We only saw people at Innes-Free Park, the fan fest. From there, everyone was quiet as well until we arrived at Diepkloof. It was colourful then. You can imagine the nerves now.

“KG [Kagisho Dikgacoi] sang on the bus, like we would normally do, but the singing was different now, because we were emotional; we were happy, we were passionate as well. We were so eager now to be on the field because of the fans.

“When we went on the field for a warmup, it was great. I was nervous. I remember singing the national anthem — I sang the national anthem with pride. That’s also my highlight, as well.”

ABOUT THE GOAL
“Mexico were in possession of the ball. We were well-organised — everyone back to our half. I think Aaron [Mokoena] intercepted the ball. The ball changed hands from Kagisho, Yeye [Letsholonyane], and Katlego [Mphela] as well,” Tshabalala says.

“It was a perfect transition, a perfect run. The weight on the ball and the speed from KG was perfect. My first touch was good, and I also felt it, you know, when the ball left the boot, that it was definitely going to go in.

“The celebration should also tell you that it came out from confidence. We knew that we were going to score. The celebration was well-prepared; everything was great. It was a perfect goal.”

Tshabalala adds: “Scoring that goal — the noise in the stadium, the emotions — I was in my own world.

“I played that video when I was still young; following my dreams, my struggles, my challenges, my journey — all the goals that I scored, all the games that I played at amateur level, me chasing this dream, and eventually, it paying off at a bigger stage.”

Bafana Bafana finished third in their group, behind Uruguay and Mexico. They therefore exited before the knockout rounds, but nevertheless captivated the hearts of the nation and the world during the 1-1 draw against Mexico and a 2-1 win over France.

Special thanks to the thesouthafrican.com for the interview with ‘Shabba’.

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