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Football: Fortune: I shared Beckham torment.

Byline: CHRIS HATHERALL

QUINTON FORTUNE says he has come through the most difficult time of his life to be South Africa's star at the World Cup Finals - just like David Beckham.

Fortune, who like Manchester United team-mate Beckham wears No.7 for his country, has been a star in the finals so far.

Like Beckham he has scored a crucial penalty, in the last minute against Paraguay, and was named man of the match in Saturday's 1-0 triumph over Slovenia.

The result that leaves South Africa just one point away from qualifying for the second round.

Just a few months ago Fortune was an international outcast after the African Nations Cup in Mali.

And while Old Trafford colleague Beckham was castigated for his sending-off against Argentina in 1998, Fortune was strung up for missing a penalty against Ghana.

Public opinion turned viciously against him after the tournament, with many fans urging new coach Jomo Sono not to pick him.

But all that has changed and suddenly Fortune is a happy man again. "I have been through a difficult time, the most difficult of my life, but I am a changed person," he said. "I am stronger and wiser now. I know what I want for South Africa and for Manchester United."

That is good news for United, but also good news for Bafana Bafana because the left-sided midfielder has finally found the balance between club and international football.

He said: "I was frustrated with myself after the African Nations Cup and full of negativity. It was like I had let everybody down. But other players rallied around me both at Bafana and my club, and including of course David Beckham because he understood.

"I was hard on myself and I have always been like that.

"Every time when I fail to play to my true potential and especially when I don't play well for South Africa I am upset. I think I was too harsh on myself and became too negative. I let things spiral out of control, but with football being a team game there will always be people urging you on."

Fortune took his new levels of confidence into Saturday's match against Slovenia and at last looked an international star of true class.

His jinking runs down the left caused the Slovenians no end of problems and his free-kick from the left-wing set up Siyabonga Nomvethe's winning goal after

four minutes.

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FORTUNE: Has won over critics
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 10, 2002
Words:410
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