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SA soccer star Percy Tau emerges fit as a fiddle after enduring tough times

SA soccer star Percy Tau emerges fit as a fiddle after enduring tough times
Percy Tau of Al Ahly in action during the Fifa World Cup Morocco 2022 second-round match between Seattle Sounders FC and Al Ahly SC at Stade Ibn Batouta on 4 February 2023 in Tanger-Med, Morocco. (Photo: Marcio Machado / Eurasia Sport Images / Getty Images)

It’s been a challenging year or so for South African soccer star Percy Tau. However, he seems to be back to his deadly and dancing best on the field this year.

There is little doubt that Bafana Bafana forward and talisman Percy Tau is one of South Africa’s best soccer exports in recent memory. However, over the last couple of years, the Al Ahly forward has endured some tough times.

Nevertheless, the 29-year-old seems to be finding his best form again, along with his fitness.

These are two issues (in tandem) that have haunted him since he departed English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion to move to Africa’s most decorated soccer club, Al Ahly, in late 2021. The talented attacker was in pursuit of regular game time.

The fleet-footed forward was lured to Egypt by the man that coached him when the pair was still at Mamelodi Sundowns – Pitso Mosimane. The move raised some eyebrows due to the allure of the English top flight. But Tau justified his decision:

“What is the point of me staying [at Brighton] when I am not playing? Everybody wants to see me play … I want to see myself play and my family wants to see me play. I know, of course, that people will always have opinions on such moves.”

Neo Maema of Mamelodi Sundowns and Percy Tau of Al Ahly during the CAF Champions League match between Al Ahly and Mamelodi Sundowns at Al Salam Stadium on 25 February 2023 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo: Ahmed Hassan / Gallo Images)

Struggles begin

In an unfortunate turn of events, fellow South African Mosimane and his technical team departed Cairo and ended their time with the Red Devils less than a year after Tau’s arrival.

This left the Emalahleni-born player devoid of familiar faces around him as he worked to adjust to his new environment and the demands of playing for a club as massive as the record African champions.

Regular injury niggles in his first season with Ahly did little to assist him in this endeavour, slowing his ability to adapt to the figurative and literal heat of moving to Cairo.

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos, out of concern for his star man, regularly spoke about the need for Tau to find a new team if his fortunes did not change. The Belgian was frequently forced to leave the forward out of his teams last year, citing lack of fitness as the reason.

“When you look at the performances of Percy in the previous games with Bafana Bafana, he was not the Percy of the highest level. I know him well. I saw him play in Belgium with Anderlecht and Brugge,” Broos said in 2022.

“I haven’t seen him at that level again. I’m not blaming Percy – he went from one injury to another, all year last year, at Al Ahly.”

Jackson Ragen of Seattle Sounders (L) dribbles Percy Tau of Al Ahly (R) during the Fifa Club World Cup Morocco 2022 second-round match between Seattle Sounders FC and Al Ahly SC at Stade Ibn Batouta on 4 February 2023 in Tanger-Med, Morocco. (Photo: Marcio Machado / Eurasia Sport Images / Getty Images)

Rebirth

The Bafana talisman seems to have put all these struggles behind him. He has been particularly influential in helping his Egyptian club reach their fourth Champions League final on the trot.

From his 10 matches in Africa’s premier club competition, Tau has found the back of the net four times. He has provided a further five assists for his teammates.

A torn muscle saw him miss about eight Egyptian Premier League matches between December 2022 and January this year. In that competition, which Al Ahly leads by four points (despite having played four matches less than second-placed Pyramids), Tau has two goals from 12 matches.

Broos has been quick to highlight the gains that Tau has made in 2023. The Belgian told journalists in March, as Bafana prepared for crucial Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against Liberia, he was now seeing the Tau that he saw lighting things up in Belgium.        

“Last year, it was like he had 50kg on every leg,” Broos said of the star. “So, now you see he’s fresh. It is the Percy that I like and that I know from Belgium. This is the first time since I’ve been here that I see that.”  

The Al Ahly forward has been rewarded with a call-up to Broos’ latest squad as the team prepares to test themselves against 2022 World Cup finalists Morocco in June.

The two teams have both qualified for the next edition of Afcon, which will take place in Ivory Coast from January 2024. The clash will be Bafana’s final one in Group K, where the Moroccans are perched at the summit after two wins from as many matches. Bafana are second on four points.

Of course, before that assignment, Tau and Al Ahly will duel with reigning African champions Wydad Casablanca for the crown of African soccer kings. The two-legged final will take place on 4 and 11 June.     

“The continuity of Percy Tau playing and maintaining his physical fitness and avoiding injuries has made him perform at this level,” former Al Ahly striker Emad Meteb said of Tau recently, as quoted by KingFut

“Tau is currently in full fitness and full artistic performance.”

Should he maintain his current form, he might prove to be integral as his Egyptian side chases a record-extending 11th Champions League title. He is also chasing his second African crown after being part of the Sundowns side that was crowned champions in 2016. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Matsobane Monama says:

    Wael Gomaa, Ismaila and former Arab AL Ahly coach are eating humble pie. They dismissed ” The Lion of Judah” as a not Al Ahly material. Bajove Mfana asekhaya.

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