SIPHIWE Tshabalala's remarkable story should inspire many young players. He still has the same hunger and determination he showed when he first made his name in the game.
The Kaizer Chiefs winger had the distinct honour of being called up to the national team while playing for a team campaigning in the National First Division, Free State Stars.
He was included in Ted Dumitru's 2006 Africa Cup of Nations squad, who returned home with their tails firmly entrenched between their legs after failing to score a single goal at the biennial continental competition.
But that did not deter Tshabalala as he attracted attention from Premiership glamour club Kaizer Chiefs.
He signed for Chiefs back in 2007 for a fee reported to be more than R1million.
A little too much, some people might say, considering that he started out at Chiefs, but Stars' boss Mike Mokoena will not have been bothered.
Now with all eyes on South Africa to see how well Bafana Bafana will fare at the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Tshabalala will be one of the players who will carry the hopes of the nation and try to ensure that Bafana proceed to the second round.
While his form for Chiefs in the past season has not exactly been memorable, Tshabalala's class shone through when he occasionally produced moments of magic. He pulled Amakhosi out of difficult situations, for instance when he scored the equaliser in their game against Mpuma-langa Black Aces. His free-kick was a beauty.
The amiable midfielder has come out of his shell to become one of Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira's key players and with the likes of Teko "General" Modise, Steven "Schillo" Pienaar, Katlego Mphela and Kagisho Dikgacoi, Tshabalala will be heavily relied on to negotiate the national squad's passage to the knockout stages of the World Cup.