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Just Watch: Thabo Rakhale

It's absurd that a player as talented as Rakhale still has no silverware to boast of. It makes even less sense that he keeps getting offloaded by his teams. Maybe TTM is about to change his luck
Fri, May 07, 2021

Illustration by Carlos Amato

Here's a loaded statement: Thabo Rakhale has never won a trophy. It's a crying emoji, sad face kind of revelation that a player with his talent, who spent six years at Orlando Pirates, did not even once grace the winners' podium.

Perhaps some have even forgotten that 'Jomo' wore the black and white jersey with pride and dazzled in many Soweto derbies. The crowds danced to his tune and, often, so did the opposition players when he was in full attack mode. Still, no silverware.

But that's about to change and no scriptwriter could have flipped the storyline in this fashion: that Rakhale can finally get his hands on a medal with Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM), the club more known for unpaid salaries, training ground bust-ups and having two different owners in a single topflight season.

It's a movie there in Thohoyandou, but I am deviating. Back to Rakhale.

He was signed by Pirates in 2012 from the lower divisions with much promise, but because he wasn't guaranteed game time, he remained with the now defunct Sivutsa Stars to continue his development given that he was still only 22.

The Pirates technical team at the time still felt he was a bit rough around the edges, so they parked him at Polokwane City a year later, which was an upgrade in many ways because now Rakhale was at least playing premiership football.

It took him a while to get going when he returned to his parent club the following season – he had sparkled for City and it was a no-brainer that he simply had to go back to add some flair to the Soweto giants.

When he reflects on his career at Pirates now, he will sadly realise that his crowning moment was when he was the star of the show in the Buccaneers' 5-3 aggregate victory over Egyptian powerhouse Al Ahly in the semi-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup almost six years ago to set up a finale with Etoile Sportive du Sahel, which they didn't win.

How a player so talented ended up being offloaded in 2018 to Chippa United and picked up a free agent by TTM in November last year, some four months after his contract with his previous club was not renewed, is a mystery.

When Premier Soccer League clubs went into the bio-bubble to finish the balance of the 2019/20 campaign, which had been disrupted by the pandemic, Rakhale watched it all unfold from his couch at home like the rest of us.

Clubs were cutting costs and players whose contracts were coming to an end before the havoc caused by the virus were some of the hardest hit.

But the reason why Chippa did not offer Rakhale a short-term deal to help the side in their fight to avoid relegation suggests two things – either the club felt he wasn't worth the extra bucks or football politics got in the way.

I choose to believe it was the latter. Rakhale is talented; he is a match winner. You want to have him in your team if you are fighting for your survival. But nothing in this game ever really adds up sometimes. The fact that Rakhale, now 31, has not won a trophy in his career is a typical example.

He can change it when TTM, coincidentally, face Chippa United in the Nedbank Cup final this weekend – otherwise he might never know the taste of champagne on his face with a winners' medal around his neck. It would be a waste…

  • Watch TTM v Chippa United on 9 May, at 6pm, on DStv channel 202