FT's 10 Best Moments of 2018: #5 No mercy, Percy
At FirstTouch, we have a saying that goes like, “a year is never over until we close it.” In the spirit of that ideal, we took our time to look back at the ten most defining moments of 2018, as far as African football is concerned. Could you guess what they are? Number 5 is up next.
One of the most celebrated African footballers of the year became the 24-year-old Percy Tau, another South African who was highly rated in his home country and electric enough for the world to take notice.
Percy Tau was in sizzling form for Mamelodi Sundowns in their title winning 2017/18 ABSA Premiership campaign. Tau partnered with Zimbabwe’s Khama Billiat upfront in Bafana BaStyle’s setup, also winged by the likes of Themba Zwane and Vilakazi to perfect their infamous shoe-shine piano football (one touch passing). Percy increasingly became ruthless in front of goal, winning the top goal scorer award for the South African League and two other more coveted individual football awards in the country, including the Player Of The Season Award. It was clear to many that the young lad had his whole future ahead of him, with the likes of Senegalese legend in El Hadji Diouf citing that Percy was just as good as Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane, if not even better. Of course, there were no satisfactory grounds to consider Diouf’s claims given Percy was just a mere star shining in a less known leagues in the Southern-most part of the world. However, the inevitable did happen.
One of the most anticipated friendly matches that took place at the end of the football league season in May 2018 was contested by Mamelodi Sundowns and the mighty Catalonian giants, Barcelona. The match dubbed a Nelson Mandela challenge matchup ended in favour of the La Liga giants. In as much Messi and his colleagues were guilty of a frenzy in Johannesburg, with the Barcelona faithfuls eager to take selfies or see them play live, the night belonged to Percy. The former Mamelodi Sundowns man was unmoved as he rubbed shoulders with Europe’s elite. A wonderfully crafted assist crowned his night which was full of sidesteps and dribbles. That’s how he announced himself to the rest of the world, eventually landing a South African record transfer deal to Premier League side, Brighton & Hove Albion. A rare chance for a South African footballer was grabbed by a rare footballer.
Since then, Tau’s summer move to Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion was immediately followed by a loan to Belgian side Union SG. Though it initially took a few games, his work ethic has started to create opportunities for more minutes and impact on the pitch, resulting in 7 goals and 6 assists through 19 matches.
Maybe Percy’s true value has shown in 2018 with his performances for South Africa in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers, drawing praise from his opponents, specifically Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr. Ultimately, Tau helped Bafana Bafana qualify behind the Super Eagles for the 2019 competition with some exhilarating performances, whether he was scoring himself, setting up his teammates, or tiring out his opponents with his relentless work rate.
As they say in Percy’s former camp in Mamelodi Sundowns, the sky is truly the limit for the 24-year-old.