|CHAMPIONS OF AFRICA: Percy Tau (front right) can't quite believe it!|
THE PERCY TAU PHENOMENON IS REAL. There was a time, not a year ago, when the only thing the little lion at Mamelodi Sundowns had in common with Lionel Messi was his diminutive stature.
But with Leonardo Castro suffering that long-term ankle injury, Tau returned to the regular starting line-up during Pitso Mosimane’s fabulous “back-door” African Champions League triumph and he has NEVER looked back.
He was the little lad sitting looking bemused during the celebrations in Egypt after KaboYellow were crowned continental kings. He no longer had to bring a cushion to matches for a long stint on the bench. He was a major part of a phenomenal success.
It was all too much for the 22-year-old who only got his matriculation certificate last year.
Vital goals in Africa have been followed by great goals in domestic competition. His second goal on Saturday against Free State Stars was a thing over wonder, nearly as spectacular as THAT last-gasp overhead equaliser from Baroka’s Oscarine Masuluke against Orlando Pirates.
Tau picked up the ball near the halfway line, cut a swathe through the falling Stars defence and put it through the legs of a defender and the goalkeeper to make it 4-1 to Sundowns on a day of serious confidence-building.
On Monday, Sundowns flew off to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup with their heads held high. The shock defeat against Cape Town City on Wednesday was forgotten. Sundowns can go top of the PSL if they win all their games in hand.
Real Madrid and the rest of the world’s continental champions await them in Japan but Percy has an old head on those young shoulders. After yet another Man of the Match award, he said: “We did well, I just try to do what I know. The focus is on my football, nothing else.
”Yes, I do miss chances, but I’m happy to score two today.”
Coach Mosimane is nearly breathless in his praise: “Our boys, sometimes they can be naughty. We could have scored more. Percy at the moment is unbelievable. He’s scoring goals, and he’s growing, growing all the time.”
With Castro back in the starting eleven for the first time, Tau maintains his spot next to the CBD as the team heads for Japan. It gives Sundowns a lovely, free-running spirit to have Castro, Khama Billiat and Keagan Dolly up there with Tau.
Up to this point, general consensus indicated Tau, an academy product born in what was once known as Witbank, was way behind Dolly in the array of young South Africans who could break in to the top five leagues in Europe.
For years I questioned Dolly’s exclusion from the Bafana Bafana senior set-up. The same can be said for Tau, who never caught Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba’s agent-jaundiced eye with the national squad.
But with Dolly’s road to Olympiacos in Greece blocked by stubborn Sundowns officials insisting the R10m buy-out clause in his contract was “a mistake” it could be Tau, “lion” in English, will be the man to poach in Japan.
He has the talent. He has the personality. He has the touch. South Africa longs for a player other than Sunderland’s elderly Steve Pienaar playing in Europe’s “Big Five” leagues. For our young lion Percy Tau, as Sundowns fans say, the Sky is the Limit!