“It’s about a young boy from the dusty streets of Soweto who has a dream of playing football on the biggest stage, and who loves the game with all his heart,” he told FIFA.com.
“The boy goes for trials, but he’s short and other players laugh at him and bully him because of his height. He focuses on his dream though, and when he gets a chance he surprises everyone with his talent and skill. Eventually, he makes the team for this massive tournament. When the day of the tournament comes, the team are relying on him and he steps up to score the biggest goal in the world. And that’s how he becomes ‘Super Shabba’!”
It is, says Tshabalala, “an authentic African superhero story”. And no-one is better placed to vouch for its authenticity than the man who lived that fairy tale, and has been revered in his homeland ever since.
The Bafana Bafana icon is also perfectly placed to look ahead to the Opening Match of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, which takes place two years today. After all, if any Qatari player wants to know about the life-changing impact of lighting the touch paper on a historic World Cup – the first hosted by a proud football region – Tshabalala can offer a few words of advice.
“That was always going to be the biggest goal in my career, no matter what came after, because it touched so many lives and brought joy to so many people,” he said. “I’ll always love it – it’s beautiful – but the goal is bigger than me as an individual.
“Although it happened ten years ago, it still feels like yesterday because I get reminders and messages from people about it every single day. It’s very humbling. That goal was special at the time, it’s special today and, for me and a lot of other people, it will be special forever.”
Had the ball been scrambled in, or found the Soccer City net via his backside, the goal might still have defined Tshabalala’s career. But it was, of course, a thing of real beauty – carefully constructed and finished with one of the most purely struck shots of that, or any, World Cup.
“I actually thought at first about lobbing or chipping it because the keeper was off his line,” Tshabalala admitted. “Thankfully I thought twice and decided for power instead. And as I was about to hit it, the ball took a very slight bounce off the ground. That helped, I think, and the connection was so good that as soon as the ball left my foot I knew it was going in.”
The touchline dance that followed became almost as famous as the goal itself, and reflected the winger’s joy at realising a long-held dream.
“When they announced the World Cup was coming to South Africa [in 2004], I was nowhere as a footballer. But I remember telling my friend, ‘I’ll be there in 2010, playing for Bafana Bafana’. It shows the power of positive thinking.
“It was the same as the game got closer – I envisaged having a good game and scoring a goal. The celebration showed that actually because it was rehearsed. We knew we were going to score!”
Now 36, Tshabalala recently returned to South Africa from a spell in Turkey to sign for the ambitious Durban outfit AmaZulu FC. “I’m very, very excited to start this new chapter,” he told us. “It’s a club with huge potential to become a force to be reckoned with in this country.”
The 90-times-capped Bafana Bafana star has also been devoting an increasing amount of time to his foundation, which has shifted during the pandemic from a focus on sport to providing the needy with day-to-day essentials.
“Fortunately, I’ve been able to do quite a lot there,” he explained. “I was given a permit by the government to go about freely during the lockdown period, and we’ve been able to provide blankets, soap powder and other basics that were especially important in winter to people in need. It’s work that’s very important to me.
“I always say to people that, whoever I played for and whatever trophies I won, my biggest legacy will be touching lives. That goal in 2010 touched so many lives and so does the work I do with my foundation now. If I can be remembered for both of those things, I will be very, very happy.”