Da Gama plays down Itu Khune injury fears

Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune. Picture credits: Veli Nhlapo
Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune. Picture credits: Veli Nhlapo

Anxious spectators held their collective breath after goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune limped off the pitch during a South African under-23 training match at BidVest Stadium on Monday.

The Rio-bound Junior Bafana played a friendly match against BidVest Wits and Khune was on the pitch for less than 10 minutes before he was taken off‚ sending those in attendance at the compact Wits University stadium into a panic.

But after consulting his medical team‚ SA under-23 coach Owen da Gama played down the fears and said there was nothing to worry about.

‘‘He (Khune) just got a bit of a knock on the shin and there is a bit of swelling and some pain there. But the team physio and the doctor have just said to me it is not serious‚” a relieved Da Gama said.

Khune himself said there is no need to panic and he should be back to full fitness by the end of the week.

‘‘Nah‚ this is nothing serious‚” Khune said.

‘‘It is just my muscle that is a bit numb. So I will put ice on it as soon as I get home and continue with the medication. Hopefully I should be fine by Wednesday. I am reporting back to work at (Kaizer) Chiefs on Tuesday and they will have a look at it.”

Khune and Chiefs team-mate Mulomowandau Mathoho — who are also senior national team players — were named as the two overage players in Da Gama’s Olympic squad and they are expected to help plug the holes in an under-23 rearguard which has leaked goals over the past few months.

Khune is one of the most decorated players in SA and played for Bafana in the 2009 Confederations Cup‚ 2010 World Cup and in the 2013 African Nations Cup‚ among other events.

But he has never played in the Olympic Games and he said he was excited by the prospects of going to the global showpiece to represent his country.

‘‘I am honoured to have represented my country on all those big stages. For me now it is all about helping the team. Everyone wants to win the gold medal in the Olympic Games and you can see that the boys are hungry and they are pushing themselves all the time.

‘‘I am very grateful and I am happy that I have been recognised as one of the overage players. With my experience I think that I will be able to help the guys to settle in.

‘‘But not only me‚ most of the guys in the squad have been called up to the senior national team before‚ so there is plenty of experience here. We will help each other in the tournament.”

Da Gama’s charges played a friendly against Premier Soccer League champions Mamelodi Sundowns last week and won the encounter 3-1.

Khune said beating the top-flight champions — who beat Egyptian powerhouses Zamalek 2-1 away from home in an African Champions League group match on Sunday — and then drawing 1-1 with Wits on Monday gave them a lot of confidence ahead of their trip to Brazil.

‘‘We played a friendly against Sundowns and we won 3-1. Now we have drawn against Wits. This shows we are slowly but surely getting there. Our level of fitness is improving.”

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