Snubbed at home, South African ‘keeper now stands on threshold of global glory

By Robson Sharuko

A Goalkeeper whose incredible overhead goal at the death against giants Orlando Pirates was somehow overlooked for the Goal of the Season award in the South African Premiership this year has shamed those who ganged up against him by being shortlisted for the prestigious FIFA gong for the best goal scored in the world last season. 

Oscarine Masuluke, a lanky goalkeeper for modest Limpopo side Baroka FC, scored a peach of a goal for his side, in the very last minute, on November 30 last year at the Peter Mokaba Stadium to earn his team a share of the spoils in a South African Premiership match against the former African champions.

The 24-year-old Masuluke defied gravity to twist his huge frame and connect sweetly with an overhead kick from inside the box, with power, beauty and precision, to power home a magical goal that earned his team a priceless point.

The superb strike was short-listed for the Goal of the Season award in the South African Premiership, which is voted for by fans, but Masuluke was controversially beaten to that award by Kaizer Chiefs’ Siphiwe Tshabalala who won the gong for a free-kick he scored.

Given that Chiefs have the biggest fan base in South African football, most of those who voted did so along club lines – influenced by the fact that Tshabalala was one of them and not the quality of his goal – and Masuluke was left to count the costs of playing for a modest side.

“You will NEVER see a goal like this again! Keeper Oscarine Masuluke last gasp equalizer in South African PSL,’’ journalist Neal Collins said on Twitter.

However, despite its purity, Masuluke didn’t get the honours which he rightly deserved leaving some pundits to question this system of coming up with winners, where the responsibility is handed to the fans, arguing that it did not necessarily produce the correct winning individual.

But, this week, the goalkeeper received a surprise present from world football governing body FIFA whose technical experts ruled that Masuluke’s goal was one of the best three goals scored around the globe last season with the ‘keeper being shortlisted for the prestigious FIFA Puskas Award.

“The FIFA Puskás Award 2017 finalists have been announced, with the strikes by Deyna Castellanos (Venezuela), Olivier Giroud (France) and Oscarine Masuluke (France) voted by hundreds of thousands of fans across the world as their top three from the initial shortlist of ten,’’ FIFA said in a statement.

“After the first round of voting concluded earlier on Monday 9 October, a new second phase has now begun. The total from each round of voting will be added together to decide the winner, who will be crowned at the awards ceremony later this month.

“Voting will remain open until the day of the awards ceremony itself, on Monday 23 October, with the winner of the fan vote receiving their award on stage at the historic London Palladium.

“Oscar Masuluke is not only the first (from) his nation to reach the Puskás Award top three, but the first player from his continent to be named a finalist. Even more remarkably, the South African is also the first goalkeeper to reach the final trio, with his incredible last-minute bicycle kick equaliser for Baroka FC against Orlando Pirates understandably capturing the imagination of fans across the world.’’

Castellanos is the second Venezuelan teenager in successive years to reach the final three, following in the footsteps of countrywoman Daniuska Rodriguez who was voted into the top three last year and she is also a finalist for the Best FIFA Women’s Player 2017.

She scored an extraordinary effort from the halfway line against Cameroon at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016.

Frenchman Giroud, who plays for English Premiership side Arsenal, is the first player from his country to make the final three for the FIFA Puskas Award and was shortlisted for his audacious, ‘scorpion kick’ goal against Crystal Palace in a league match.

South Africans, who denied Masuluke his moment of glory at the country’s football awards ceremony when some of them voted for Tshabalala’s goal as the best of the lot, have now been rallying behind their countryman to try and get votes into his corner.

“The South African Football Association is calling upon all South Africans and fellow Africans to play their part in bringing one of football’s prized awards to the continent by casting their vote for Oscarine Masuluke’s goal that has been nominated for the 2017 FIFA Puskas award,’’ the country’s football governing body said.

“The Baroka shot-stopper’s stunning strike in the dying minutes of the match against Orlando Pirates in November last year has made it into the top three where he is competing against French striker Olivier Giroud and Venezuela’s Deyna Castellanos.

“Masuluke’s nomination is not only for South Africa but for the rest of the continent.’’

SAFA president Danny Jordaan rallied on his countrymen and women, and Africa at large, to try and ensure that the gong comes to the continent.

“We must play our part in ensuring that Masuluke makes history by becoming the first African footballer to bring such an award home,” he said.

“A win for Oscar is a win for Africa; this is not about which club a person supports or which country they are from. It is about giving African football the recognition that it deserves and this is why we urge each and every African to vote for Oscarine.’’

Leading South African football pundit, Robert Marawa, also challenged the continent to rally behind Masulu”C’mon Africa!!! Let’s vote for this truly amazing goal by Oscarine!!! It’s down to just 3 now!!!!,’’ he thundered on his Twitter account.

But, the big question remains, how do South Africans hope for their fellow Africans to vote Masuluke when they, themselves, chose not to honour him at their awards ceremony and, instead, gave the gong of the best goal of the season to Tshabalala? It’s something that will rumble for some time as South African football searches its soul.

October 2017
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