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Hlompho Kekana to Itumeleng Khune: The brutal truth no one else dares say

In the world of professional football, where dreams are chased and legends are made, the harsh realities of ageing and the inevitable decline in performance are often swept under the rug. However, former Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana has boldly stepped forward, offering a candid and perhaps unsettling perspective to Kaizer Chiefs legendary goalkeeper, Itumeleng Khune.

Khune, an iconic footballer who has donned the Amakhosi jersey for his entire career, finds himself at a crossroads. With limited game time and the twilight of his playing days looming large, the question of his next move has become a subject of intense speculation. 

On Saturday, before the Polokwane City match, Amakhosi honoured Khune for his 25 years of service in a ceremony unfortunately witnessed by a disappointingly small crowd.

The former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper was quick to clarify that the event was a tribute, not a farewell. Although the club has stated this will be his final playing season, he maintains his desire to continue playing into his 40s, pointing to examples like Gianluigi Buffon, the legendary Juventus and Italy goalkeeper who retired at 45 last year.

Itumeleng Khune guard of honour for 25 years of service to Kaizer Chiefs
Itumeleng Khune/Kaizer Chiefs


Kekana, having faced a similar situation in his career just three years ago, has offered a stark dose of reality.

“I wish he could understand and face the reality that he will never play forever,” Kekana said on SABC’s Soccer Zone, his words carrying the weight of experience. “At this stage that he finds himself in, one would say leave the game before you start hating the game.”

Kekana’s advice, while blunt, stems from a place of empathy and understanding. Having spent 10 years at Masandawana, he would indeed identify with Khune’s emotional attachment to Chiefs. However, he cautions against clinging to the past and urges Khune to consider the potential consequences of overstaying his welcome.

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“The reality says the system doesn’t want you anymore. So when the system doesn’t want you anymore, make sure that you move,” Kekana warns, emphasising the importance of recognising when it’s time to move on. “You don’t want to watch football one day and hate it.”

Kekana’s own experience serves as a cautionary tale. He speaks of the importance of retiring with fond memories, of leaving the game on a high note. He urges the Ventersdorp-born star to avoid the potential bitterness and resentment that can arise from clinging to a fading career.

Hlompho Kekana
Hlompho Kekana’s illustrious career at Mamelodi Sundowns spanned a trophy-laden decade.

“He played for Bafana; he captained the Kaizer Chiefs team, which won the league. I mean, he has done so much. What point does he want to prove, and to whom?” Kekana asks, challenging Khune to reflect on his motivations and aspirations.

While Kekana’s words may be challenging to hear, they offer a valuable perspective. Khune’s next move when his contract with Chiefs expires next month will undoubtedly be a defining moment in his legacy, and Kekana’s advice may be the wake-up call he needs.

The question remains: Will Itumeleng Khune heed Kekana’s warning and embrace a new chapter in his life, or will he continue to chase the seemingly elusive dream of playing into his 40s? Only time will tell.

RELATED STORY: How a failed trial, poverty, Eugene Terreblanche couldn’t stop Itumeleng Khune  

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