HE COULD’VE BEEN
another extra in a hard-luck story. Born in Ventersdorp, a town more famous for AWB activities than for producing soccer players, Itumeleng Khune was the second of six children living in an RDP house. Dad was the sole breadwinner. But Khune dreamt big – and while his dad was spending his spare time scoring goals as an amateur striker, young Khune was setting some of his own. In 1999, the first of those came true as his dad took him off to his own favourite club, Kaizer Chiefs, armed with a new pair of boots.
Fast-forward 11 years and, as Chiefs and Bafana’s first-choice goalkeeper, Khune is continually in the spotlight. Learn from him and become the star in your own story.
On beating the odds
My background wasn’t that good. My parents had six children and my dad worked as a driver on a goldmine in Carletonville, far away. That taught me to take responsibility at a young age. At 17, I was already living on my own, making decisions for myself. I’m proud that most of my decisions were right in that they have worked out for me.
On taking opportunities
Initially, when I arrived at Kaizer Chiefs, I was used as a defender, but I wanted to be a striker like my dad. I kind of had the talent, but had a problem with stomach cramps, which hindered my ability to run. Strangely though, I always admired Brian Baloyi, who was the Kaizer Chiefs and national team goalkeeper at the time. So the decision for me was whether to follow my dream or go where there was an opportunity… In the end I realised I had a better chance of becoming a professional – my ultimate goal – as a goalkeeper.
On learning from others
When I met Brian Baloyi for the first time it was really emotional. He kind of knew that I admired him and ever since has always been like an advisor to me, guiding me and talking about many things, not just football. I’m so happy that it’s been like that and my interaction with him has taught me that if you respect others, they will respect you – but that all starts with respecting yourself.
On being a role model
I know being a role model is part of life for a famous person in South Africa – I can’t run away from that. Whatever I’m involved in, I attempt to do the right thing because I’ve come to realise the effect it can have on other people. For instance, since I was sent off during the World Cup, people always tell me how that moment affected them. That type of thing helps keep me grounded.
On coping with the highs and lows
I always remember my background. Every decision I make is guided by what my parents taught me. Also thinking back to where I have been in my life, where I am right now and where I want to go in the future. In the same vein, I owe a lot of gratitude to my colleagues, too. As a goalkeeping team we always support and encourage whoever is in the Number One jersey, but are also mindful that we have to keep that person under pressure to perform – luckily that has mostly been me.
On managing relationships
My family understand that they come first in my life, but it’s a two-way street – they also understand that my career comes first. Without my career there probably wouldn’tbe food on the table; they respect that, but also know that I am the person I am because of them.
On getting away from it all
What makes me happiest is when I have time off to spend with family. Usually that means attempting to beat my younger brother [Lucky Khune, also a Kaizer Chiefs player] and my cousin at TV games at home – you could say I’m always on my toes, even when I’m “resting”!
On planning for the future
I always say, “What use is having money today, but being poor tomorrow?” You never know what tomorrow holds. When people approach me with business deals, they never talk about my football career, but about my future. I have some projects that I have money invested in, including a football club in Ventersdorp in order to unearth talent in unfamiliar areas. I also make sure to put some money aside.