Doc should have played on - Barker
Doc should have played on - Barker

Posted in News on Nov 22, 2001.

Former Bafana Bafana coach Clive Barker admitted that replacing star midfielder Doctor Khumalo in an international friendly against Brazil in 1996 was probably his biggest mistake.

South Africa, with arguably one of the best sides ever assembled, led 2-0 at halftime against the former world champions with Khumalo the scorer of the second goal.

Striker Phil Masinga had given the home side a 25th minute lead and Bafana looked well on their way to victory against the Samba Boys.

Speaking at a Benefit banquet on Wednesday, Barker said the replacement of Khumalo in the second half took the bite out of Bafana and allowed Brazil more freedom as they started tormenting the home side.

The Brazilians reduced the deficit through Flavio in the 56th minute and leveled the score two minutes after the departure of Khumalo through Barcelona star Rivaldo.

The Samba Boys grabbed the winner four minutes before the final whistle through Bebeto leaving many South Africans disappointed as they felt victory against the world heavyweights was in sight.

The evening was driven by popular soccer commentator and international journalist Mark Gleeson, included a visual overview of the highlights of Khumalo’s illustrious soccer career, and tributes by former Bafana captain Neil Tovey and Barker.

Responding to a question about the substitution of the star, Barker did not hesitate as he raised his left hand and declared, “guilty”. “Yes I must admit that replacing Doc was the biggest mistake,” said Barker. However, Barker said there were reasons, which precipitated this move.

"Doc had only flown in a few hours before the match," said Barker. “And I asked him before kick-off where he was fine which he said he was.”

But the former Bafana coach, who now heads Manning Rangers, said as time went Khumalo started fading away and a substitution was needed.

Khumalo's influence was also felt by his teammates as Tovey later told the guests, "He was a genius. One of the best midfielders of all time."

"When he was in the team and you were in possession, you could not wait to get the ball through to him," said Tovey. "We knew that his magical touches would soon get the crowd behind us."

But Tovey once played on the opposite end against Khumalo at club level while at AmaZulu, with Barker as coach. How did he manage to neutralise the midfield genius? “We made sure he was always on the floor and never had possession,” reminisced Tovey.

Khumalo has won almost every honour on offer including three league titles, 13 cup wins and the 1992 footballer of the year award after a magnificent season with the Phefeni Glamour Boys.

Amakhosi boss Kaizer Motaung paid tribute to the star, whom he said was like a son to him. Motaung attributed most of Khumalo's success to his family and in particular his late father Eliakim “Pro” Khumalo, one of Soweto’s finest soccer stars.

Motaung said it was because of the discipline instilled in Doc Khumalo by his family that he turned out to be one of the greatest SA footballers.

"Doctor is one of the greats of Chiefs having represented the club with pride and honour throughout his career and also going to wear the jersey of his country 50 times with the same distinction," said Motaung in Khumalo’s Benefit Magazine.

"As a captain he has helped our young squad to the fore with his leadership qualities and his encouraging nature. When the list of South African soccer greats is written, the name Doctor Khumalo will always be among them," said Motaung.

Khumalo has also pledged to donate 10 percent of the total profit to a charity organisation of his choice. The final event will be a soccer match against a team yet to be confirmed. The date and venue will also be announced in due course.

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