24 July 2018 – Between the goalposts, stands the goal-minder who shouts at his defenders each time he senses trouble approaching his goalmouth.
In this year’s 2019 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations third and final qualifying round, Burger-King Sponsored South Africa’s national Under-20 (Amajita) shot-stopper, Khulekani Kubheka, rarely made any bellowing sounds trying to get his defensive third to switch on.
And that’s because he had Bidvest Wits’ reserve side central defender, Givemore Khupe – the master orchestrator – conducting his defensive line with such great finesse that, at times, made the opposing side look like amateurs who were still learning to figure out how an offside trap works.
More than twice, were Malawi adjudged to be offside in a crucial second leg matchup where Amajita progressed to next year’s Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations, following a 2-0 aggregate scoreline produced out in Lilongwe. Khupe was the genius behind it all. The thinker, a leader, and an excellent communicator in the defensive third who ensured that his fellow defenders felt at ease holding the defensive line alongside him.
“The truth is,” Khupe said. “I hate losing. Even the idea of it agitates me. I developed this mindset from a very young age. I hated being on the losing side. I guess that’s what got me into being the one who leads from the back. Some are born with this leadership quality, and some get to develop it over time.
“And what also made it easy for me to earn the trust of my fellow defenders in the Amajita squad is that we know each other’ strengths and weaknesses very well. We share an understanding. And that comes from having played against each other in the country’s reserve league (the MultiChoice Diski Challenge).”
Khupe also expressed his elation over having formed part of the Amajita squad to have qualified for next year’s Niger Afcon U-20 edition. And that’s because the lanky centre-back from Machadodorp, Mpumalanga, was forced to miss out on the final Amajita squad which qualified for the 2017 Fifa World Cup by finishing fourth in the Zambia Afcon U-20 edition. Khupe suffered a knee injury which forced him out of the game for a year.
“I got that injury in our last group match against Botswana in the 2016 Cosafa Under-20 Cup,” Khupe recalls. “And after a thorough assessment the doctors told me that it would take a yearlong for me to get back into full fitness again, unless if I got one of my family members in agreeing to donate one of their ligaments in order to speed up the whole healing process. I decided to take the long route. It was not easy though. However, I believe that whole process made me stronger both physically and mentally. I can withstand anything now.”
Asked who were the first people he called following Amajita’s third Afcon U-20 qualification in a row; Khupe smiled and said: “I called my parents. They were all happy for me, dad most especially because he loves the beautiful game. Mom was happy as well although academics take first priority in her eyes. I finished my matric with very good marks last year and I decided to give myself a gap year to see what I can achieve in my playing career. My dream is to see myself earning a professional contract and hopefully work my way in earning a move abroad. We just qualified for the Afcon now and let’s see what happens next.”