Shaun Bartlett, the former Bafana Bafana captain, played 74 times for South Africa and that statistic, alone, is sufficient to earn one legendary status in any sport.
Many football fans will remember the former Bafana Bafana player as a bustling striker for Charlton Athletic in the English Premiership, where he made 126 appearances in six seasons.
In contrast, Zimbabwean Willard Katsande, who has also captained his country, has nearly spent his entire career in Africa, with the former Warriors hard-man looking likely to hang up his boots on the continent after nine years in the South African top-flight league with glamour club Kaizer Chiefs. But, as they say on the streets, game recognises game.
Yesterday, Bafana Bafana legend Bartlett, who is now assistant coach at Kaizer Chiefs, paid tribute to Katsande, remarking that the steely Zimbabwean remains a key figure in the Amakhosi line-up even at the age of 34.
In an interview with South African media yesterday, Bartlett described Katsande as a leader and core player who “everybody” looks up to.Furthermore, he lauded Katsande for his “tactical discipline.”
High regard, indeed, from no less a decent footballer than Bartlett. Katsande has enjoyed success for nearly a decade in South Africa, winning multiple trophies with a great club. He has earned his place in South African football folklore and, even as he probably approaches retirement, you feel that beyond his post-playing days, his wealth of experience is going to be utilised in that country more that his own.
Case of a prophet not having honour in his own country? You could well say so.But there just has to be a way around it for Zimbabwe. For many years, we have earned quite a reputation of being a breeding ground for some of the world’s best sporting brains, yet as a nation we seem unaware of the world-class quality that we possess.
Bartlett is a model professional. When he gives his props to Katsande, and speaks in the manner he does about the former Warriors star, you just have to sit up and listen–for he knows what he is talking about.
One day, when we start to value ourselves as the rest of the world does, who knows what we can become as a sporting nation?