For Percy Tau‚ a first appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, which starts in Egypt in June, comes at exactly the right time.
With his current form‚ the Nations Cup can be a huge platform for 25-year-old Tau and his emerging brand on the continent and globally.
He has won the Belgian second-tier Proximus League player of the season award after being loaned to Royal Union Saint-Gilloise by Brighton & Hove Albion. The English Premier League club signed him from Mamelodi Sundowns.
Now, he will be hoping for a recall from Brighton‚ or to line up a loan to a club in a stronger league to continue his development in Europe.
First Tau — who attracted attention across Africa after winning the 2016 Caf Champions League with Sundowns‚ and added to his reputation with two stunning goals against Libya that saw Bafana through to Egypt 2019 — has to perform well in the Nations Cup.
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Down-to-earth Tau, who is also savvy and smart‚ as his graduation with a BCom degree from Unisa in 2019 shows, does think about his brand.
“The brand will always be important to any sportsman in modern football‚” he said ahead of a Bafana preliminary squad training session at Steyn City in Johannesburg.
“Most of the sports guys do focus on their brand and that is no different to how I do things. There’s so much to achieve and so much to get out of football and life. Luckily enough I’m still on the right path. I haven’t had much in the way of injuries. So that puts me in a good position to grow and get better.”
Selfless and thoughtful‚ Tau is not looking at the Nations Cup for personal gain‚ but sees it in that light for all his Bafana teammates.
“I think it’s huge for everybody. Luckily enough for me it comes at 25. For Lebo [Mothiba] it comes at 23‚” he said. “So it can be good for a lot of guys. It will be my first time‚ and also for other guys it’s their first time. It’s good for the nation also to show we’re able to go there, compete and win it.”
Big striker Mothiba had a promising first season at Strasbourg, his 10 goals in 32 games helping them to a mid-table 11th place in 20-team Ligue 1‚ an improvement from 15th in 2017-18.
Mothiba scored two more goals in the Coupe de Ligue (League Cup) semifinals against Bordeaux‚ where Strasbourg beat Guingamp on penalties in the final.
The battering ram centre-forward and the skilful‚ pacey Tau give goal-shy Bafana a rare sharp end to their attack‚ a key weapon as SA attempt to progress past Morocco‚ Ivory Coast and Namibia from group D.