THE back-to-back World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Ethiopia are the first high profile matches that Sakubva-born Marumo Gallants goalkeeper, Washington Arubi has been drafted into the national senior men’s squad since his recent return.
In every way, the former Dynamos shot-stopper has earned his place in the Warriors set up, thanks to superb performances in the South Africa top-flight league.
More than half a decade since he last featured in national team colours in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Guinea at National Sports Stadium in Harare in 2015, the veteran goalkeeper nicknamed ‘Sekuru Gudo’ was included into the Warriors squad that took part in the recent forgettable Cosafa Cup expedition.
In terms of status and importance, stakes are higher in World Cup qualifiers than the regional competition reserved for players turning out for clubs around the continent only.
And Arubi understands that.
“There is no doubt. The World Cup qualifiers are crucial. Yes, every other competition is important, both for national pride and international ranking, but we all know that there is global attention to World Cup qualifiers, hence their superiority.
“This is also a source of motivation and just like every other player called into camp, I hope and pray to make it into the starting 11 or at least be included in the final squad,” said Arubi.
He believes this is a continuation of a fairly tale that saw his career getting back on the rails after enduring turbulent times.
The 35-year-old turned the corner last season in an otherwise ailing career when he became instrumental in Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) (now Marumo Gallants) surviving the relegation fight by keeping 10 clean sheets in the league.
His heroics in goal, which then propelled the side to their first ever title, the Nedbank Cup, where he was deservedly named player of the tournament, put the icing on the cake and made him a choice for the national team goalkeeping department.
For his impressive form in the just-ended season, Sekuru Gudo has been rewarded by a recall to the national team.
“Like I have said before, I will keep on pushing and keeping believing that everything is possible in life. Considering what I went through before, it made me strong mentally and physically and I want to thank everyone who supported me throughout,” said Arubi.
The Marumo Gallants keeper professed his sense of patriotism.
“My focus at this moment is to justify my inclusion in this squad. I have always wanted to play for my country. It gives me a sense of fulfilment to be able to do something for my nation,” said the soft-spoken former Lancashire Steel and Highlanders goal minder.