First, it was Nelson Mandela victoriously walking out of jail 28 years ago that South Africans of all races and creeds put aside that which divided them to celebrate a milestone in history.
A close second was during the 2010 FIFA World Cup when Siphiwe Tshabalala (34), famously known as Shabba, sent a 40-yard volley into the net during the opening match between South Africa and Mexico.
The euphoria that accompanied that fantastic strike was deafening and reverberated across the African continent. The goal was nominated for the FIFA Puskás Award. The Soweto-born soccer player is etched in history as one of the greatest footballers in South Africa.
As a child, Shabba was known to push the boundaries and excel in everything he does.While many in his age group consider the sunset years of youth as the opportune time to hang up their boots and retire from professional football, Shabba has broken the barriers and embarked on a conquest to win over Europe. The former Kaizer Chiefs star has joined Büyükşehir Belediye Erzurumspor in the Turkish Süper Lig.
He is an idol to millions of impressionable youth around the world who consider him the ultimate professional whose work ethic precedes him. Speaking to the media about his surprise late move to Europe, Tshabalala said: “God showed that He’s not done with me so, with regards to this move, it took 10-12 years for it to finally happen. This is a lesson to people (young people particularly) that they should not stop dreaming and that a dream does not have an expiry date.”
He will probably be best remembered for becoming one of the most accomplished footballers in South African history. Shabba retains the honour of being the first soccer player to make an international debut while still playing in the National First Division.
When he is not on the field, he continues to lend a hand in ensuring sustainable livelihoods through the Siphiwe Tshabalala Foundation. It empowers young people by providing them with social life skills, encouraging self-development and offering educational opportunities. They also offer tertiary education bursaries to prospective students.
“I want to give back to the community and help the youth realise their dreams and have hope in a brighter future. Everything has to start somewhere and this for me is a start on a foundation that will hopefully grow to make a difference in the country and in the lives of many young people,” he says.
Shabba also plans to grow the foundation so that it reaches and touches many lives across the continent. He also encourages young people to lead a healthy, active lifestyle. Tshabalala insists that there is a number of health benefits from being physically active.
“By encouraging young people to engage in physical activity, we would be investing in their health. By improving the health of the youth now we have a greater chance of producing healthier, active adults in the future. And cliché as it may sound, a healthy nation is a productive nation. And a productive nation is a successful nation,” he declares.