Durban - Right after scoring an all-important goal, Bafana defender Siyabonga Sangweni’s priority was to steal 30 minutes of his busy training schedule to be with his goats and cattle.
Sangweni, an aspiring livestock farmer, drove more than 200km from Durban, where the national squad had been training, to his Dondotha village in Mpangeni, Zululand, just to be with his animals.
Siyabonga Sangweni, left, scores past Morocco's Abderrahim Achchakir, right, and goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri in their African Cup of Nations Group A soccer match, in Durban. Credit: AP
When he was about 30km away from home, he called the cattle headsman, Gonondo Gumede, instructing him to gather the cattle home before his arrival.
However, to his dismay, he arrived home to find that the animals were not there. He picked up his cellphone and asked Gumede: “Where are you? Where are the cattle? I arrived home a while ago, but the cattle are still not here.”
He currently has 34 head of cattle and 56 goats. Last year, Sangweni gave away some of the beasts as lobola to his in-laws in Witbank.
He first collected the animals soon after he had joined Golden Arrows.
Sangweni first shone in the Afcon tournament when he scored the first goal against Angola. A defender, Sangweni said that when his team was not doing enough to score goals against Morocco, he took a gamble by moving forward.
He scored the team’s second goal, which helped South Africa to qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament.
“I decided to take my chance by leaving the backline unattended, and it worked. I thank God for that.
“When I switched on the phone, there were more than 100 messages. Other people were in tears because of joy,” said Sangweni.
Back at home, his facebrick house was packed with family members and neighbours to watch soccer on his plasma television.
They all hoped that Sangweni would save the country from embarrassment.
His younger sister Nqobile said the mood had been tense when Morocco were leading 2-1. “But after he had scored the goal, many people came into the home. We immediately organised a braai to celebrate,” she said.
It was his impeccable soccer career that helped him to earn enough income to transform his humble family homestead into an upmarket house in the deep rural village.
Sangweni had also used some of his money to set up retail and transport businesses.
The towering Orlando Pirates defender is also known as Nsimbi, which means “iron man”, because of his ability to stop opponents from reaching the goal area.
Thirty-one-year-old Sangweni, whose mother Dudu and father Mfungeleni have died, joined the professional soccer ranks by joining Durban-based Nathi Lions in 2002.
He then moved to Arrows, before settling with Orlando Pirates.
Football has become a part of the Sangweni family.
His brother Mandla, 23, is goalkeeper for Durban club AmaZulu, while his other brother Thamsanqa, 22, plays as midfielder for Sundowns.
Sangweni also owns a local team, S’yabangena FC, which has produced a number of promising players.