The 'Afcon Rise of' Series is a collaborative initiative between Goal and 3 Kilo featuring up-and-coming writers. 3 Kilo is a development agency that creates opportunities and skills development projects for the youth of South Africa.
The past season has been like a rollercoaster for South African golden boy Percy Tau. From signing a side plying their trade in the English Premier League to finding himself playing in the second division in Belgium, there has been a lot happening for the 25-year old.
One aspect though that has been a constant was his amazing performances on the field.
The diminutive attacker will be spearheading a hopeful South African team at this years Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) looking to bring glory to the nation from the Southern part of Africa.
Percy Tau's early life
Percy Tau was born in Witbank, Mpumalanga in South Africa. He was one of eight siblings raised by a single mother named Elizabeth.
Initially, Percy’s mom did not like the idea of him playing football, but he was adamant and would often cry every time she did not allow him to play.
”I didn’t like that the fact that the boys often came back home after sunset from their football, I wanted him to stay home and do chores’’ Tau's mother said in an interview with Timeslive.
Percy Tau's club career
Percy Tau’s football development started at the Mamelodi Sundowns Academy.
Tau's amazing ability was first noticed when he started menacing opposition teams in the national school’s tournament.
Soon after finishing school in 2013, he was offered a professional contract with Sundowns at the age of 19.
Tau went on to make his professional debut for the club in February 2014 under the guidance of coach Pitso Mosimane, who later became an integral part of Tau's success.
At such a tender age, Tau struggled for regular game time, managing just six league appearances.
The young attacker was then sent out on loan for the second half of the 2015/16 season to NFD side Witbank Spurs.
Tau was determined to use this opportunity to boost his confidence and to improve his overall game.
At Spurs, the young Tau made a position change as he moved from the wing to a more advanced role, playing as a striker.
This move worked out in his favour as his loan was cut short and he returned to the Sundowns.
On his return, Percy Tau went on to score a total of 24 goals and registered 27 assists for the club.
Tau's individual brilliance also earned him the prestigious Footballer of the Year award and Players’ Player of the Year award in his final season with Sundowns, and found himself among the list of nominees for African Player of the Year award as well.
After a successful spell at Sundowns, in July 2018 the talented forward then caught the eye of Chris Houghton - the then Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club manager.
A move was subsequently completed to one of the biggest leagues in the world, and things were looking very promising for Tau to reach his full potential.
But shortly after signing for the English side it was then discovered that Tau did not meet the requirements in order to qualify for an English work permit.
With Tau left in a rather precarious situation, it was then decided by the club that Tau would be sent out on loan to Belgium outfit Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, who are owned by the Brighton owner Tony Bloom.
‘’A loan is always good. It helps a player to get there and grow. I will also get time to work on myself, and improve on things that I think I need for a longer run,’' Tau told Brighton's media channel.
Tau then went on to explain how beneficial his last loan spell was.
“I'm happy with my path because I have done it before and things have worked out in my favour,” he added.
Much to his faith and belief, the South African enjoyed a successful season with the Belgian outfit bagging 13 goals and 13 assists in just 35 appearances.
His impressive performances earned him the 2018/19 Proximus League’s Player of the Season award in his debut season on European soil.
Percy Tau's international career
It is clear that the Witbank-born star is ready to make it big in Europe and show the world what he is capable of.
The diminutive striker will have the weight of a nation resting on his shoulders as he will be expected to spearhead the Bafana Bafana attack in this year’s Afcon. Percy played a pivotal role in Bafana’s Afcon qualifiers, scoring four goals and one assist in the six games.
Bafana ended their qualification campaign unbeaten but finished as runners-up with 12 points in group E.
South Africa have been drawn into Group D at the Africa Cup of Nations, which kicks off on June 21 in Egypt.