Will unlucky Walters finally break his duck and end years of waiting for a run in a Bafana shirt?
Bafana Bafana’s two matches against Guinea Bissau and Angola over the next seven days present acting coach Owen da Gama with an opportunity to right a wrong committed by his predecessors by giving veteran Shu-Aib Walters a first cap.
The 35-year-old Cape Town City goalkeeper has returned to the national team squad for the first time since the 2010 World Cup as one of three ‘keepers chosen for the two friendlies.
The two games will be the 15th and 16th internationals that Walters has been called up for‚ but has never previously been given even a single minute on the field.
So despite spending years in Bafana camps‚ he is still waiting for his first international appearance.
No player in the 25-year history of Bafana has been called up as many times without winning a cap.
Walters was a member of the 23-man World Cup squad in 2010 and was involved in all the pre-tournament friendlies.
But Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira never gave him any game time.
He should at least have had a run out to get a cap during the three-month World Cup build-up‚ which included trips to Paraguay‚ Germany and an extensive home-based camp.
But Parreira insisted he wanted his first-choice goalkeeper to be involved in as many of the preparatory matches as possible.
And so Itumeleng Khune played all the build-up games‚ except one full match against Guatemala and a half against Colombia‚ where Moeneeb Josephs was given a run.
Walters sat patiently waiting for a chance that never came and had to deal with the frustration of seeing his opportunity to play international football slip by … until last week’s surprise recall from Da Gama for the friendlies in Durban on Saturday and in East London next Tuesday.
Naturally he is reluctant to criticise what happened to him or make demands this time round‚ just grateful to‚ again‚ be part of the Bafana squad.
“I’m going to enjoy the week‚” he told Times Media Digital as he reported for duty at the national team hotel.
But given that Bafana caps have been won in subsequent years by the likes of Nhlanhla Khuzwayo‚ Jackson Mabokgwane and Wayne Sandilands – none of whom are regulars at their own clubs – Walters must be feeling the footballing Gods have not been fair.
Shakes Mashaba even handed a six minute run to unknown Dumisani Msibi in a friendly against the Ivory Coast in Nelspruit in November 2014 as part of his ill-fated plan to expose untested youngsters to international football.
Msibi has not reached the heights predicted for him and is now the reserve goalkeeper at Cape Town All Stars in the National First Division.
He has as many Bafana caps as he has Premier Soccer League starts‚ having debuted for SuperSport against Chippa United in December 2014 but never started a top-flight game since.
Walters was first called up to the Bafana squad while on the books of Bloemfontein Celtic for the friendly 3-0 win over Malawi in Germiston in 2008.
Joel Santana picked him to travel to Ireland and Germany in 2009 and after the Brazilian was fired‚ Parreira brought back Walters‚ by then playing at Maritzburg United‚ for the trip to Paraguay in March 2010 and the training camp in Germany where the team played North Korea and Jamaica.
Thereafter he was de-facto third-choice behind Khune and Josephs and sat on the bench for a further five warm-up games (against Thailand‚ Bulgaria‚ Colombia‚ Guatemala‚ Denmark) and then the World Cup.
Darren Keet was selected as third-choice after the 2010 finals leaving Walters to ponder what might have been … until now. - TMG Digital