Johannesburg - It’s July 7 1992 – a chilly night in Durban.
The Kings Park Rugby Stadium is packed to the rafters, but it has gone dead silent. You could hear a pin drop.
The young man in the spotlight makes the Holy Cross sign, steps forward, and kicks the ball.
The ball kisses the back of the net and the crowd erupts into joyous applause.
The young man runs off the field, jumps over the razor wire surrounding the pitch and engages in bear hugs with members of the ecstatic football crowd.
Only later did the legendary player in the making confess it had only dawned on him he had scored South Africa’s first international goal when a journalist pointed this out to him.
Five years earlier, a spindly-legged, then 16-year-old Theophilus Doctorson Khumalo, sporting a glistening wet-perm hairdo, made his debut for Kaizer Chiefs against archrivals Orlando Pirates at a packed Ellis Park Stadium.
On Friday, Khumalo told City Press he was looking forward to imparting the knowledge he had gained during his 31-year soccer career to Baroka FC, which he has now joined as technical director.
As Khumalo (affectionately known as “16V”) embarks on this new venture, he reflected on his past and what a bundle of nerves he had been when the late Ted “Professor” Dumitru had named him in the starting line-up.
“I remember asking the late Patrick ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe for permission to visit the gents with one thing on my mind: to run to the dressing room, get my clothes, go straight to Bree Street, get a taxi and go home.
“But let me declare upfront that I am not a Messiah,” said the man who is now tasked with all the technical aspects of the game at his new club.
“I’ll start by sitting down with the coach and his technical staff to get their vision. They have to take me through their plan for the year. And then we take it from there.”
Khumalo said it was important for the club to decide on a model of play.
“Baroka survived through the play-offs, meaning they were nearly relegated to the National First Division. I think it will be wrong for them to suddenly think they can win the league,” he reasoned.
The soccer legend said the club should decide whether to be a side that grooms and develops players with a view to sell them to bigger clubs or to be an entity that will challenge for honours themselves.
“If the club decides to challenge for silverware straight away, they will have to be prepared to pay huge amounts of money in signing up top-quality players,” he said.
Khumalo made an example of SuperSport United, which relied heavily on development structures for players when they started, he said.
“But now, after winning a number of trophies, they are able to go into the transfer market and sign big-name players.”
Khumalo said he was humbled by the love and respect shown him by South African football followers over the years.
He stressed his appreciation for the new challenge given to him by Baroka boss Khurishi Mphahlele, as well as the encouragement from Chiefs boss Kaizer Motaung.
“Chiefs have been a home for me all these 31 years, but Mr Motaung gave me his blessings and encouraged me to spread my wings, and I appreciate that.”
Motaung was quoted in a statement by the club this week, saying:
“We agreed that he [Khumalo] should pursue his dreams, and we did not want to stand in his way.”
Khumalo played over 400 matches for Amakhosi between 1987 and 2002 and his strikes found the net 75 times.
He made 50 appearances for Bafana Bafana and scored nine goals.
While he could not recall the exact number of trophies he lifted with Chiefs, he quipped: “I’m sure they are more than 20.”
Among some of his many highlights on the field was supplying the killer pass to Chippa Masinga, who scored the solitary goal against Congo which took South Africa to its first World Cup finals in France in 1998.
About Mphahlele, Khumalo said: “I appreciate his confidence in me and promise not to disappoint him. “I also hope the brand that is Doctor Khumalo will rub off on the club.”
Meanwhile, according to HinnewsSport.com, retired Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs posted a message of encouragement to Khumalo on his Facebook wall.
Part of the message read:
“Happy to see you leave for more challenges buddy, we are examples of loyalty to a club but we do not get much in return for our self-less services.
Doc, go do what you know how to do best, i wish you all the best in your future endeavors.”