Sat Sep 23 16:35:24 SAST 2017

Khune to guide U23s in Rio

By Tiyani wa ka Mabasa | 2016-07-19 07:39:06.0

Bafana Bafana keeper Itumeleng Khune during training at Soccer City Stadium. Pic: Sydney Seshibedi. 26/05/2010. © The Times

Itumeleng Khune says his role in the U-23 national team heading to the Olympics next month will be to guide the youngsters rather than act as if head coach Owen da Gama doesn't exist.

Khune, 29, has been picked alongside his Kaizer Chiefs teammate Mulomowandau Mathoho as the over-age players in the team, and Da Gama said he expects them to provide leadership.

The Bafana Bafana skipper was then asked if he foresees a role similar to that of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was seen coaching his Portugal teammates in the Euro final against France after he was taken off injured.

"I'm honoured to have been called up as one of the senior players in the (U23) national team set- up and to come pass on my experience to the younger ones. Ronaldo is an icon and he is a big player, so I'm not on the same level as Ronaldo," Khune responded.

"I cannot take charge and I will let the coach do his job. Whatever happens, I will try by all means to help wherever I can but I cannot stand on the line running up and down as if the coach is not doing his job. I will respect the coach and I will do whatever I can behind the scenes, which is in the dressing room," he said.

Khune played just 10 minutes after replacing Jody February in the practice match against Bidvest Wits that ended 1-1 yesterday.

He later allayed fears regarding his injury by stating that it was just a bruise to his shin and will recover in just a matter of days.

Da Gama, meanwhile, said he expected the over-age players to show the boys the way. "We are looking to them to be role models and setting the right examples on the field to show the boys how it is done at the highest possible level."

As much as Khune and Mathoho provide leadership, Da Gama said it doesn't mean he's going to pick one of them to captain the team.