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Katlego Mphela reveals what keeps him awake at night: ‘Jeez‚ I could have broken that record’

Katlego Mphela during the Carling Black Label Cup match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium on July 26, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Katlego Mphela during the Carling Black Label Cup match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium on July 26, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Former Bafana Bafana striker Katlego “Killer” Mphela has revealed that what haunts him in his career was that he felt he could have broken Benni McCarthy’s record to become the all-time national team top scorer.

Mphela retired from football at First Division Royal Eagles three years ago. He established the reputation as South Africa’s deadliest scorer in the 2010s and early 2020s‚ following an early stint at Strasbourg in France at Premier Soccer League clubs SuperSport United‚ Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs.

There was a feeling that had Mphela perhaps preserved his body better and earned more than his 53 caps for Bafana‚ and 23 goals‚ he might have come closer to McCarthy’s record 31 goals earned in 81 appearances.

“I think in terms of life I would say I’m satisfied. Because‚ as you know‚ where I come from is a very difficult place to live. And I gave people hope there‚” Mphela said in an interview with YouTube sports channel Shoot Online‚ asked how he looks back at his career.

“Now if someone mentions the name Brits [Mphela’s home town in North West]‚ or you mention my name‚ people know the place now. And I gave a lot of people belief. Not only in soccer. They believe they can make it in life.

“But I think in terms of sports I look back and I think ‘Jeez‚ I could have broken that record’. The Bafana Bafana record.

“I look and I could have been more consistent and scored a lot of goals in the PSL. I could have gone overseas again‚ or stayed overseas.

“But you look back again‚ it’s like‚ ‘Nah man. For people to recognise me like this it means I did something’.

“So I did well. But me being me I don’t think I was always satisfied with what I achieved. Especially after Sundowns won the Champions League.

“When I was there I didn’t have that motivation – I don’t know why. And then‚ after they won it I was like‚ ‘I could have won this thing’.

“Because I had it in me – I had the talent. And I could have scored 30 goals a season if it wasn’t for injuries and other things. But I think I did well.

“I can always come back and say I played in the World Cup‚ played against big nations. I scored against Spain and [Iker] Casillas – that free-kick everyone talks about.

“And I actually played I think four Africa Cup of Nations‚ and scored in every big tournament I played in.

“So it’s not a bad career. But the one that haunts me most is the Bafana Bafana record.

“But it happened. When Pitso [Mosimane] left [as Bafana coach]‚ and things changed it was difficult to play for the national team again.

“But we also had easier games where I missed three or four chances‚ we didn’t perform. We were not a bad team but I think we didn’t lose a lot of games‚ but we also didn’t win important games.”

Mphela’s most famous goal was scored in the 93rd minute with the last kick of the third-place playoff of the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup against Spain at Royal Bafokeng Stadium – a magnificent 35-metre free-kick past Casillas that sent the game to extra time at 2-2. Spain won 3-2 in extra time.