|At the double: Tlou Segolela scored twice for Bafana in Maseru|
despite his notoriously unmanageable hair
My European friends don’t understand me anymore. I write things like “Cometh the man, cometh the Tower”. Or “Bernard could have Parked a bus in that gap”. I’ve even considered “Klate is no great Daine”. Then there’s simply “MashaMIGHTY!”
This is the language of football in South Africa, where men are men and aristocratic Chiefs battle plundering Pirates. In England, they bore themselves to death with Lamps, Roo and celebrating fourth place. Not here. Oh no. As Bill Shankly, the legendary Scotsman at Liverpool once said: “Football isn’t about life and death. It’s more important than that.”
After Sunday’s 2-0 friendly win against Lesotho – a competent if unspectacular success before the life or death World Cup qualifiers against the Central African Republic and Ethiopia – we have a new name to conjure with.
When Tlou Mashedi Segolela took Maseru by storm (okay, his first goal was an off-sidish tap in but the second, a turn and shot with his left, was a cracker) I immediately tweeted: “TLOU MUCH!” and set about discovering what the story is with his contract at Orlando Pirates.
It’s not complicated. The man from Polokwane – born on the same day as me (March 1) but 27 years later – is known as “Rea Viya” (“here we go”, though his first name means elephant) for his express pace (presumably he runs better than those buses) and has waited a long time for his big break.
Sunday was just that. When he rammed home the second I pointed out that his transfer value has just rocketed – though with no new contract on the table at Parktown, perhaps the Buccaneers are about to miss out on his sudden marketability.
In January last year, Segolela said he was happy to sign a two-year contract until June 2014. But with a year to run, big clubs tend to offer a new contract to keep star players happy, maintain transfer value – and stop them from signing a pre-contract with a rival club.
And then you have to ask: How can this happen? How can South Africa’s latest footballing flavour of the month be left to see out his contract at one of South Africa’s richest clubs? I’ve been SMSing Roger de Sa – he told me last week he’s on holiday on the Algarve in Portugal until June 10 – asking him just that.
This bizarre system when the coach apparently has little to do with new contracts and transfers appears to be the problem. At Mamelodi Sundowns, Johan Neeskens was undone by Trott Moloto’s ridiculously expensive moves in the market, at Kaizer Chiefs Stuart Baxter has enjoyed the signings acquired by Bobby Motaung, but at Pirates, Screamer Tshabalala appears to have no contact at all with the under-pressure De Sa right now with the transfer window open and the group stages of the CAF Champions League pending.
After his two-goal Man of the Match performance in the windy Maluti mountains on Maseru’s unforgiving plastic surface, Tlou himself said: “I am looking forward to the World Cup games. I just want to stamp my authority here, become a regular for Bafana Bafana.
“Look, this was a good confidence booster for me and I am happy with how I I played.”
Everyone appears stunned to find Tlou centre-stage. Okay, South Africa are ranked 56th in the world by FIFA and Lesotho just 155. But two goals for his country is a marvellous boost. And remember, in 2011 and 2012 he picked up SIX winners’ medals as the Pirates under various coaches pouched the double trebles.
But that masks the full truth. Segolela has been at Pirates since 2007, when he left local club Seemole as a teenager from Moletjie near Polokwane. In five seasons since then, he has played just 45 games for the Sea Robbers. He played 38 for Bloemfontein Celti on loan in 2009/10.
He won goal of the season a year later for his Maradona-like effort which began in his own half against Free State Stars at the Botchabelo Stadium. The man also known as “Gautrain” derailed four defenders en route to goal. He also provided the corner for Isaac Chansa’s title winning goal that year.
But no matter who the coach is at Orlando – Ruud Krol, Julio Leal, Augusto Palacios or Roger de Sa – Segelelo struggles to keep a regular place in the first team, which is probably why they allowed his contract to run down.
Clearly, Screamer and Roger – with the permission of chairman Irvin Khoza of course – must get their heads together over this bloke. Kaizer Chiefs are lurking. Mamelodi Sundowns are always looking to invest.
To lose Segolela now would be erm… simply Tlou much.