Criticism brings the best out in me, says Kaizer Chiefs veteran Itu Khune

Sazi Hadebe Sports reporter
Itumeleng Khune of Kaizer Chiefs during their media day at the Chiefs Village at Naturena, Johannesburg on January 19 2023.
Itumeleng Khune of Kaizer Chiefs during their media day at the Chiefs Village at Naturena, Johannesburg on January 19 2023.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Kaizer Chiefs skipper and veteran goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune is not surprised at the criticism over his performances, especially after Amakhosi were thrashed 4-0 by AmaZulu in a DStv Premiership clash in Durban last week.

All four goals Chiefs let in looked avoidable but poor communication between Khune and his defence led to the Glamour Boys suffering their second defeat by that margin this season, the first coming against Mamelodi Sundowns in Pretoria in August.

On the back of two defeats, brittle, inconsistent Chiefs face Sundowns again at FNB Stadium on Saturday (8pm). With the five-time successive champions Brazilians on a run of blistering form that has seen them notch 11 league wins in a row, Amakhosi will do well to avoid another humbling. 

Khune, speaking at a Chiefs media day at their Naturena headquarters on Thursday, said he cannot shy away from taking the blame, and that criticism only makes him stronger.

“I think to be fair, football is a team sport and yes, when the team is not doing well certain individuals will be labelled, will be given names,” said the 35-year-old gloveman who’s been in Amakhosi’s first team since 2004. 

“I think that's what brings the best out of me as an individual. As a leader you can’t run away from the situation we’re facing — you have to face it head on.”

Khune — Bafana’s long-time No.1, including at the 2010 World Cup, and a stalwart at Naturena for a decade before injuries started to take a toll a few years ago, said it was important for him to lead his teammates by example and be the first accept blame when Chiefs are not doing well.

“Other players look up to you as their role model, they look up to you as a senior member of the team and I can’t shy away from the criticism because that will mean I’m not willing to grow as a footballer and a human being.

“There are a lot of youngsters in the team who can learn a lot from me. With the situation like this [Chiefs’ poor form], I have to rise and I have to give better performances than I gave [against AmaZulu].

“So, yes, we’ll be given names but one game doesn’t define an individual. I’ve played for over two decades. I’ve been given names before, but I know how to bounce back.

“But again, I don't like talking about myself as an individual because we’re a team and we’ll bounce back as a team.”

Getting back on track is certainly what Chiefs fans will be expecting from Chiefs on Saturday after they lost their first two league matches this year.

Sundowns will set a new club record of 12 wins in a row if they beat Chiefs. 

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