As Baroka captain and one of the club’s longest-serving members, the big defender was coolness personified following the club’s penultimate training session ahead of what should be their last match in the lower league.
“We can only get excited after the final whistle on Sunday,” he said matter-of-factly. This, though, was not the case with his teammates on an uncharacteristically bitingly cold Thursday afternoon in Seleteng, the village that is home to the chief of the big Mphahlele tribe in Limpopo.
After a 2-hour training session at which coach Kgoloko Thobejane was conspicuous by his absence, Baroka players resembled kids in a sweet shop as they received their Nedbank Cup kit to keep following their exit from the competition.
But the main source of their glee was their impending promotion to the country’s elite league – the Absa Premiership and a few of them could be heard talking about the looming big day.
“It’s happening on Sunday, boy,” said one with a big smile as he walked away clutching the kit.
Shaku, however, showed no hint he was about to become a hero of a proud tribe by lifting the trophy to give his people their own premiership club to support.
“All we want is to get the three points. That’s very important because we’ve worked very hard and we’d like to finish this in style,” he said as he anticipated their clash with Milano United.
“Of course, the supporters are already talking about us being in the Premiership. But we cannot be like them, we have to remain focused.”
And as captain it’s his duty to keep his teammates’ feet firmly planted on the ground.
“It’s a huge responsibility. Some of the players are very young and you have to keep reminding them that we cannot afford to get carried away,” explains the 29-year-old who has been with Baroka since 2007.
As one of the few local players – he is from Makurung, a village just a stone’s throw away from Seleteng – he knows only too well what the team means for the people.
It was for this reason that club owner Khurishi Mphahlele wanted him to be captain.
“The MD asked me a few seasons back to lead the team. But I told him I was not ready and only this season did I feel up to the task because I’d gained valuable experience over the years.”
And today, at what is expected to be a packed arena in the capital of Limpopo, a local boy is likely to catapult Baroka into South African football history.
“I think we are all looking forward to that moment when the captain lifts the trophy and we know that we are now going to play in the big league,” he says, unflinchingly referring to himself in the third person.
– The Sunday Independent
Original source: Baroka’s big day has arrived