IF THERE was a police unit dedicated to the prevention of football abuse, Franklin Cale would be its top target.
No footballer in South Africa kicks a ball harder than Cale, whose powerful legs bear more than a passing similarity to those of Brazilian missile merchant Roberto Carlos.
Cale's left peg has unleashed a few wonder goals in recent seasons - and even his swerving crosses leave bruises on anyone who gets in their way.
The Mamelodi Sundowns winger looks like someone you would cross a dark alley to avoid. His intimidating appearance is a bit deceptive - he is a friendly, easygoing character who loves to joke - but he can certainly look after himself, having grown up on the mean streets of Ocean View, a poverty-stricken township near Fish Hoek in Cape Town.
"It was very difficult," Cale said recently. "There was lots of gangsterism, and all my uncles have been in and out of prison. So it was a big step for me to achieve what I've achieved. But I still live there, and I'm almost a local hero now. I always try to help my community, like coaching the Ocean View United soccer team."
But right now, the 27-year-old has no time to coach his homeboys. He's too busy trying to convince Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira that he is an indispensable part of South Africa's final World Cup squad of 23.
There's a widespread view that he deserves to make the cut, because he offers Parreira a different set of strengths to his other attacking midfielders. Cale's direct, forceful style is a rarity among South African wingers, who tend to delay their crosses and cut inside to exhibit their dribbling ability.
Cale usually drives the ball into the danger area as early as possible - and if he doesn't, he gallops straight towards the opposition goal like a buffalo in a bad mood.
While his crosses are sometimes wayward, his aggression and physical strength could give a generally lightweight Bafana line-up some oomph.
During Bafana's training camp in Brazil, Cale was sometimes deployed by Parreira as a makeshift leftback, but it became clear that his tackling technique is not up to standard.
But the former Ajax Cape Town star could be a potent substitute on the left wing, where Siphiwe Tshabalala is the man favoured to start.
Cale moved from Ajax to Mamelodi Sundowns in January (for a rumoured fee of R5,5million).
After the World Cup, he is set to be a critical element in the Brazilians' quest for PSL and African glory. But don't rule out a quick transfer to Europe - especially if he manages to commit serious football abuse on the greatest stage of all.