Revisiting the 2010 FIFA World Cup: Where are those Bafana Bafana players now?

Bafana Bafana players made the most of their celebrations when Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the team's first goal in 2010, in the tournament opener against Mexico, which ended in a 1-1 draw. Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

It's been 10 years since South Africa's Bafana Bafana kicked off the 2010 World Cup, the first and only on the continent, with a 1-1 draw with Mexico.

The hosts went on to beat France 2-1 in their final game, a shock result to be sure, but had already lost 3-0 to Uruguay and failed to progress out of the group stage, agonisingly, on goal difference.

Here, many players reflect on their careers since, and the unique experience of representing their country in front of the world on home soil, plus their regrets -- particularly about narrowly missing out on the knockout stages.

The class of 2010 includes several passionate youth coaches driven by a desire to help South Africa's next generation go further than they did, despite a lack of opportunities at home. Others are still playing football, while some have taken steps to prepare themselves for life outside the game.

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Goalkeepers: Moeneeb Josephs, Itumeleng Khune, Shuaib Walters

Defenders: Siboniso Gaxa, Tsepo Masilela, Aaron Mokoena (c), Anele Ngcongca, Matthew Booth, Lucas Thwala, Bongani Khumalo, Siyabonga Sangweni

Midfielders: MacBeth Sibaya, Lance Davids, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Steven Pienaar, Teko Modise, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Surprise Moriri, Thanduyise Khuboni

Forwards: Katlego Mphela, Bernard Parker, Siyabonga Nomvethe

Goalkeepers

Itumeleng Khune

Then: Much was expected of 22-year-old Khune, one of South African football's brightest prospects. He started the first two games for Bafana, but disaster struck against Uruguay when he was sent off for his challenge on Luis Suárez. He missed the win over France through suspension.

Now: Now the captain of boyhood club Kaizer Chiefs, Khune has maintained an iron grip on the Bafana and Amakhosi number one spots for the best part of the last decade. However, he has been plagued by injuries lately, allowing the fine form of Ronwen Williams and Daniel Akpeyi to call his country and club spots into question respectively.

Moeneeb Josephs

Then: Josephs enjoyed an impressive 2009-10 season with Orlando Pirates and went to the World Cup as second choice to Itumeleng Khune. He was thrown into the fold after Khune's red card in South Africa's 3-0 defeat to Uruguay and subsequently started the 2-1 win over France.

Now: Now 40 years old, Josephs is a player-assistant coach at AmaZulu. Having fallen down the pecking order at the relegation-threatened club, he was offered a place on the technical team following the appointment of Ayanda Dlamini as caretaker coach in March.

Shuaib Walters

Then: Walters went to the World Cup as the third-choice goalkeeper and it was no surprise that he did not see any action. He was on the books of Bloemfontein Celtic, but had spent the second half of the 2009-10 season at Maritzburg United.

Now: Most recently at Ajax Cape Town, the veteran goalkeeper hung up his gloves in 2019. In September of last year, he relocated the Shuaib Walters Goalkeeper Academy to Johannesburg.

He is happy, by and large, with what he achieved in his lengthy career in the PSL, and does not look back on the World Cup with any bitterness despite his lack of playing time.

"I was fortunate enough to come in at a time when Emile Baron just got injured in Brazil and flew back home. Rowen Fernández was busy on the mend in Germany with his club [Arminia Bielefeld]. He was still recovering. He hadn't played much if I remember correctly," he tells ESPN.

"If you were to ask them maybe a year before that who was going to be [Bafana's] goalkeepers, I would probably be number five or six in line. You don't wish those things on other people, but it was fortunate for me and I'm grateful for the opportunity."

Defenders

Anele Ngcongca

Then: The right-back from Cape Town had the world at his feet, as he was plying his trade at Genk alongside the likes of Thibaut Courtois and Kevin de Bruyne. He was immense for Bafana in the 2-1 win over France.

Now: Ngcongca is fighting for his place in a highly competitive Mamelodi Sundowns squad. He remained at Genk until a loan spell at Troyes in 2015-16. He moved to Masandawana at the start of the following season.

Although he has been one of the most consistent South African footballers of his generation, he admitted to ESPN that he had regrets over allowing himself to become too comfortable at Genk. A possible move to AC Milan failed to materialise as a result.

Ngcongca still looks back on the 2010 win over France as his fondest career memory: "Playing in front of my family and my people at the biggest stage of soccer was a special feeling. I used to dream about playing in the World Cup and that made it so special."

Matthew Booth

Then: The towering veteran Mamelodi Sundowns centre-back was a fan favourite, but his adoring supporters were unable to see him play during the World Cup, with Bongani Khumalo and Aaron Mokoena preferred at the heart of Carlos Alberto Parreira's defence.

Now: Booth's second stint with Sundowns lasted until 2011, when he returned to Cape Town to play for Ajax. He finished his career at Bidvest Wits before retiring in 2014 and immediately moving into punditry. Having been on the books of Cape Town Spurs, Wimbledon, Rostov, and KS Samara, Booth bowed out as one of South Africa's most consistent players.

By Booth's own admission, he holds mixed feelings over the 2010 World Cup. He tells ESPN: "[Not playing] was a bitter pill to swallow, looking back, considering that I got injured on the way to the 2002 World Cup.

"That wasn't pleasant -- sitting on the bench and then watching us fail, particularly against Uruguay. I thought I could have made a difference, perhaps, in that particular game. Such is life. Overall, it was a fantastic experience."

Siboniso Gaxa

Then: The right-back was on the books of Mamelodi Sundowns at the time, shortly before his move to Belgian club Lierse. Gaxa started against Mexico and Uruguay. However, his position was threatened by the emergence of Anele Ngcongca, who started the victory over France.

Now: Gaxa enjoyed a successful stint at Kaizer Chiefs after leaving Lierse in 2012, and he most recently turned out for Ajax Cape Town in 2018. He has equipped himself for life away from football by graduating from Wits University with a Political Science and Social Studies degree.

Tsepo Masilela

Then: Masilela was plying his trade at Maccabi Haifa in Israel and played all three games for Bafana at the World Cup. He came off the bench for Lucas Thwala against Mexico before earning starts against Uruguay and France.

Now: Masilela turned out for Getafe on loan from Maccabi Haifa in 2011-12, earning the respect of then Real Madrid boss José Mourinho for playing through pain against Los Blancos.

Like Josephs, Masilela is now on the books of AmaZulu. He has played eight league games in 2019-20 after spending last season without a club.

Aaron Mokoena (c)

Then: Mokoena was at Portsmouth and had started the FA Cup final against Chelsea despite enduring the pain of relegation in 2009-10. Previously, he had enjoyed a four-and-a-half-year stint at Blackburn Rovers and spells at European giants Bayer Leverkusen and Ajax.

Now: Mokoena joined Swallows FC (widely known as Moroka Swallows) as their head of scouting last year. As he gets his Aaron Mokoena Sports Academy off the ground, the Dube Birds will be hoping to profit. The former centre-back revealed in a recent interview with Soccer Laduma that the COVID-19 pandemic had put on hold his plans to attain his UEFA B and A licenses.

Lucas Thwala

Then: Although he started against Mexico, 28-year-old Thwala was generally behind Tsepo Masilela in the left-back pecking order. An Orlando Pirates player at the time, he came on as a substitute for Anele Ngcongca during the win over France.

Now: Thwala left Orlando Pirates in 2012 and spent a year at SuperSport United before retiring from playing due to an ankle injury. He spent the majority of his career with the Buccaneers, having joined them as a youngster.

Bongani Khumalo

Then: The SuperSport United centre-back was making waves after playing a crucial role in three consecutive league title wins. He beat Matthew Booth and Siyabonga Sangweni to a starting berth alongside Aaron Mokoena, and scored against France.

Now: Khumalo secured his dream move to Tottenham midway through 2010-11, but never broke into the team and was sent on loan to PAOK, Doncaster Rovers, and Colchester United. He returned to South Africa in 2015 and is in his third spell at SuperSport United, having also played for Bidvest Wits.

Siyabonga Sangweni

Then: Sangweni was on the books of Golden Arrows, where he had starred in their 2009 MTN8 win. The centre-back did not take to the field during the World Cup.

Now: Sangweni moved to Orlando Pirates in 2011, playing a key role in their treble win in his first season. His career was blighted by injury and he retired in 2016. According to a recent KickOff report, he now coaches family team Sangweni United in South Africa's fourth tier.

Midfielders

Siphiwe Tshabalala

Then: 'Shabba' wrote his name into football folklore when his thunderous strike against Mexico opened the scoring for the 2010 World Cup. Already an established player at Kaizer Chiefs, he had the world at his feet at 25 years old.

Now: Tshabalala remained at Chiefs until 2018, when he moved to Turkey's Erzurumspor. He left following their relegation and has been without a club this season. He claimed in a February interview that a move to an unnamed Chinese side had broken down due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

He had to wait some time to fulfil his overseas dream, having seen potential moves to Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace break down in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

In response to ESPN's question at an online South African Football Journalists' Association press conference recently, Tshabalala said: "After the World Cup... there were offers. Some, I was told [about]. Some, I saw them. It's just unfortunate that nothing happened then. Still, I tried to be professional and accept that maybe it was not the right time. I continued to give my best with Kaizer Chiefs."

Tshabalala has ventured into business, notably opening ShaYe lounge together with Reneilwe Letsholonyane last year, but still plans to continue his football career for the time being.

Kagisho Dikgacoi

Then: Dikgacoi was cutting his teeth in the Fulham midfield at the time of the World Cup. The Cottagers were on a high, having recently finished as runners-up in the 2009-10 UEFA Europa League.

Dikgacoi saw limited game time, but the then 25-year-old had a seemingly bright future ahead. He played the full 90 minutes against Mexico and Uruguay, setting up Tshabalala's goal against the former, but missed the France game through suspension.

Now: Dikgacoi left Fulham for Crystal Palace in 2011, having fallen further down the pecking order after Roy Hodgson's departure to Liverpool. To the midfielder's credit, he nailed down a place at the Eagles. Having helped Palace win promotion to the Premier League, he saw regular game time in 2013-14.

Dikgacoi left Palace in 2014, and after two seasons at Cardiff City and one back in South Africa with Golden Arrows, he hung up his boots. He ventured into business with IsaDi Sports Apparel and into coaching with Royal Eagles (as assistant and caretaker coach) and Witbank Spurs (as co-coach).

However, Dikgacoi tells ESPN that his present focus is on starting an academy to give South Africans access to the coaching he missed out on in his youth. "I never got proper development; I don't believe I got the best coaching," he says. Had that development gap been filled, Dikgacoi believes he could have taken his career even further.

"I'm just working on developing young boys, but from a very, very young age, because that's what we don't do here in South Africa," he says. "Most of our academies here start at a later age, like 17 or 18. Maybe, I would like to start from the under-9s."

MacBeth Sibaya

Then: A leftover from Bafana's 2002 World Cup squad, Sibaya was on the books of Rubin Kazan, where he had won Russian Premier League titles in 2008 and 2009. He was benched for the first two games of Bafana's campaign, but played the full 90 minutes against France.

Failure to reach the knockout rounds was Sibaya's second near miss at a World Cup, having also come close with Bafana in 2002.

Now: He retired in 2013 while at Moroka Swallows, Sibaya but opted to stay in football. Having served as a de facto technical director for Real Kings, he then coached SuperSport United's reserves. Sibaya maintains an interest in youth development, although he is open to the idea of eventually coaching a senior team.

"I want to start helping the community, not necessarily through an academy, but more like soccer schools," Sibaya tells ESPN.

The World Cup on home soil is understandably a bittersweet memory for Sibaya. "We didn't have belief. It was just me who played in the 2002 World Cup," he says of Bafana's 2010 squad.

"I think we just needed one more goal against France to advance [Bafana's goal difference was, in fact, three worse than second-placed Mexico]. I won't say for me it had more impact [than for players who weren't in the 2002 squad]. It was a bad feeling for the rest of the country."

Reneilwe Letsholonyane

Then: 'Yeye' was becoming an increasingly essential figure at the heart of the Kaizer Chiefs midfield, having joined from Jomo Cosmos two years prior. He started against Mexico and Uruguay, notably playing an instigating role in the counter-attack which led to Siphiwe Tshabalala's goal against the former, but was dropped for the game against France.

Now: Still plying his trade in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) with Highlands Park, Letsholonyane's longevity is commendable. He left Kaizer Chiefs for SuperSport United in 2016 after winning two league titles and remained there for three years. Aged 38, he has no immediate plans to retire and no regrets about never going overseas.

"For me, before I started professionally, one of my dreams was to play in the World Cup. You cannot have regrets when you're living your dream. Playing in a professional league was one dream, and playing for Kaizer Chiefs another," Letsholonyane tells ESPN.

"Going overseas was one of my dreams, but it wasn't something that [I felt] must happen. I believed that if I put it top of the list, it would have disturbed my focus. I decided to say: 'If it happens, it happens; if it doesn't, it doesn't.'"

He also started studying a three-year sports management course through Varsity College this year.

Steven Pienaar

Then: Arguably the most successful South African footballer of his generation, Pienaar was shining during his first spell at Everton. The versatile winger had already won two Eredivisie titles with Ajax and turned out for Borussia Dortmund.

Now: Pienaar's move to Tottenham in January 2011 did not work out as planned, but he impressed upon returning to Everton before moving on to Sunderland and Bidvest Wits. 'Schillo' retired from playing in 2018 and has taken tentative steps into the world of coaching. He recently confirmed to the Athletic that he is currently serving his internship at Ajax, working as an assistant coach to the Amsterdam giants' U16s.

Teko Modise

Then: The Orlando Pirates midfield kingpin played the full 90 minutes against Mexico and Uruguay before coming off the bench against France. Much was expected of the 27-year-old but he failed to silence his critics at the World Cup.

Now: Having rejuvenated his career with a January 2011 transfer to Mamelodi Sundowns, Modise spent the last two seasons of his playing career at Cape Town City before hanging up his boots after 2018-19.

The Mother City club handed him a new role as an executive PRO and Soccer Laduma reported shortly thereafter that Cape Town City had also given him the opportunity to try his hand at youth coaching. Modise features on the same publication's Carwash podcast with former goalkeeper Sean Roberts and host Sloo Phaho.

Lance Davids

Then: Having featured prominently for Ajax Cape Town in 2009-10, the versatile midfielder was on the verge of a move to Lierse SK in Belgium. He did not take to the field during the 2010 World Cup.

Now: Davids returned to Ajax Cape Town in January 2013 before hanging up his boots after the 2014-15 season. He now works in Belgium for Centre Circle, alongside his former agent, Rob Moore, as an advisor to players and their families.

"I studied [Sports Management through the University of South Africa] and my goal was always to become a sports director of a club. Now, I've started this, and I'm learning a lot from his [Moore's] guidance," Davids tells ESPN.

"As a company, we have Christian Pulisic, Victor Wanyama, Tashreeq Matthews, Brandon Petersen, and Haashim Domingo. We have a lot of young talent in South Africa. Our business focuses on African and American players - and, of course, Europe."

Reflecting on the World Cup, Davids says: "Not every footballer got the minutes, but we were part of a World Cup squad in our own country. I was there to support the guys. It was a special moment in my career."

Surprise Moriri

Then: Although Mamelodi Sundowns were in the middle of a barren spell, Moriri remained part of the furniture for Masandawana. The 30-year-old attacking midfielder came off the bench against Uruguay for his only 2010 World Cup appearance.

Now: Moriri has started establishing himself as a coach, working with the Sundowns reserves. He has served as an assistant to David Notoane, taking the reins while the latter has been on South Africa U23 coaching duties. Soccer Laduma in April reported an imminent promotion to head reserves coach for Moriri.

Thanduyise Khuboni

Then: A 24-year-old midfielder at the time, Khuboni was plying his trade at Golden Arrows. He put in a solid shift alongside MacBeth Sibaya in the victory over France.

Now: Currently chasing promotion with Siyabonga Nomvethe and Uthongathi FC, Khuboni has also played for Mpumalanga Black Aces and Highlands Park. Although he has not had the glamorous career he might have hoped for, he was a Bafana regular for two years after the World Cup.

Forwards

Bernard Parker

Then: Parker played a bit-part role as FC Twente clinched a first ever Eredivisie title under Steve McClaren in 2009-10. Aged 24, the versatile attacker made a brief cameo against Mexico before starting against France.

Now: Parker moved to Kaizer Chiefs in 2011 and has remained with the Glamour Boys ever since. He has won two league titles with Amakhosi and is on course for a third.

"Picking up honours with Kaizer Chiefs, my childhood club, over the years -- it's really been so unbelievable," he tells ESPN. "Also, representing my country in a World Cup -- the highest level in football -- was absolutely awesome."

It would be all too easy to dwell on what might have been for Parker, but he speaks of his time in the Netherlands with pride. "One of my best memories was winning the title in one of the top leagues in football and qualifying for the [UEFA] Champions League," says Bafana's joint-third highest goalscorer.

Parker has also prepared for life off the pitch by studying sports management and opening a wellness centre, Parker's Natural Wellness, with his wife, Wendy.

Katlego Mphela

Then: Mphela was at the peak of his powers, having just won the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot in Mamelodi Sundowns colours. He started all three games at the World Cup and was on target in the victory over France.

Now: After spells at Kaizer Chiefs and Royal Eagles, Mphela confirmed his retirement in 2019. The former Strasbourg, Reims, and SuperSport United frontman saw his career blighted by injuries, but only Benni McCarthy and Shaun Bartlett beat his Bafana goal tally. He recently told KickOff that he had begun working with young players and hoped to earn his coaching badges.

Siyabonga Nomvethe

Then: After one season back in South Africa with Moroka Swallows following a three-year stint at Aalborg, Nomvethe did enough to convince Carlos Alberto Parreira that he offered value at 32 years of age. The veteran striker's only appearance of the tournament came off the bench against France.

Now: Having initially hung up his boots last season, Nomvethe could not resist having one last bite at the cherry and returned to professional football with Uthongathi. The former Udinese frontman aims to help the Cane Cutters earn promotion to the top flight.