Tshabalala reflects on ‘perfect’ goal as SA reminisces over 2010 World Cup

11 June 2010 is a date many South Africans will never forget as it marked the start of the Fifa World Cup. The only one to date to be hosted on African soil.

Siphiwe Tshabalala made an undeniable mark as his opening goal against Mexico on the opening game that kicked off a month of entertaining football action in the 2010 World Cup. Picture: YouTube screengrab.

JOHANNESBURG - It's 10 years to the day since ‘Phillip’ was here.

11 June 2010 is a date many South Africans will never forget as it marked the start of the Fifa World Cup. The only one to date to be hosted on African soil.

While Spain walked away with the Jules Rimet trophy following a 1-0 win over the Netherlands, it would be the name Siphiwe Tshabalala that made an undeniable mark as his opening goal against Mexico kicked off a month of entertaining football action.

The goal has gone down in World Cup folklore, and garnered the midfielder world-wide fame.

Reflecting on the opening game of the World Cup, Tshabalala admits he was “nervous, like any other game”.

Even the mundane pre-match rituals seemed to be different on the day.

“I was really touched and inspired by the crowd and the support as well and I still remember the moment I sang the national anthem, I sang it with pride and teary eyes as well,” he told the SA Football Journalist Association. “I was very positive and I knew that I was going to do well because I visualise all the time”.

The first half was about both sides finding their feet as they settled their nerves, but once the second 45 minutes kicked off, Tshabalala knew something special was going to happen.

“It was a big stage. The whole world was watching. One had to bring his A-game,” he recalls.

“It didn’t just come by fluke, the goal. Mexico were in possession of the ball, we were well organised. I think Aaron (Mokoena) intercepted the ball and then the ball changed feet from Kagisho (Dikgacoi), Yeye (Reneilwe Letsholonyane) and Katlego (Mphela). It was a perfect transition. Perfect run. You know the weight on the ball and the speed from KG (Dikgacoi) was perfect. My first touch was good and I also felt it when the ball left my boot that it was definitely going to go in,” he added.

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

WATCH: Siphiwe Tshabalala 2010 World Cup goal

Amid the pessimism from the international media around Africa’s first World Cup, South Africans came out in their numbers to not only support the tournament, but the team itself.

On 9 June, an open top parade was held to wish the team well as they prepared to take on Mexico, Uruguay and France in the group stages.

Looking back at the day when they were meet by thousands of people across the streets of Sandton, Tshabalala recalls how former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira was not a fan of the celebration.

“The parade was organised without the coach’s knowledge and he was fuming. He was fighting everyone, asking ‘how can you do this?’ I’ve never seen such in my life where two days before a big game, players must parade and greet the fans’. He didn’t want to do it. They had to try and convince him. I remember we were called into a meeting room because he was not happy and we volunteered and ended up agreeing that only a few can go.”

In the end, Tshabalala, Letsholonyane and Mokoena, who was captain, volunteered to take part in the parade.

“When I was on that bus, for me, it was very emotional to see our people wearing the national team colours, showing their support to us,” he remembers.

“It really touched me and it will always be a highlight. I saw unity. I didn’t see black and white, I saw one race. I saw the rainbow nation. I didn’t regret being on that bus, waving to the people and saying thank you.”

Ten years on from their home tournament, South Africa still holds the unwanted honour of being the only World Cup host to fail to progress past the group stages. They finished third in their group on goal difference, after drawing with Mexico, losing to Uruguay and beating France.

For Tshabalala, he believes the side could have done much better in the tournament had they managed to beat the French by more goals in their 2-1 victory.

“The first game we should have won,” he said honestly about their performances. “The second game I accept but the third game we should have won by a bigger margin. I had a close range shot that was saved. Katlego had two goal scoring chances. We created a number of good goal scoring chances that we didn’t convert and maybe had we won by four or five, we could have advanced on goal difference”.