THERE’S an infectious energy about Cape Town City midfielder Thabo Nodada, both on and off the field. The same animation he brings to his game can be found in the ebullience of his personality. Last week was the realisation of a long-held dream for Nodada when he was named in the Bafana Bafana squad for two crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Seychelles.
For the South African national football team, victory is paramount if they want to qualify for the tournament to be hosted by Cameroon next year – and Nodada is hoping to make a contribution to the national cause. The first fixture against the Seychelles is scheduled for Saturday at FNB Stadium, with the return match next Tuesday at the Stade Linite in Victoria, Seychelles.
They say good things happen to good guys – but, also, that great things happen to those who put in the hard yards. Nodada represents both of the above, which is why the sprightly City midfielder’s selection to the Bafana squad is certainly well-deserved.
Nodada has played an influential role in the City squad since the arrival of Benni McCarthy as head coach. When City boss John Comitis purchased the franchise of Mpumalanga Black Aces, he inherited a squad of players which included Nodada, the 23-year-old from Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal. Initially, after the club was relocated to the Mother City, Nodada was injured and never saw much action. But McCarthy then replaced Eric Tinkler as coach, and he immediately realised the value of the dynamic, fit-again Nodada.
Ever since the player has been the first name on McCarthy’s team sheet.
Nodada was brilliant, the beating heart of the team, when City won the MTN8 final two weeks ago. No doubt, it was that performance which more than likely persuaded Bafana coach Stuart Baxter that the City man was ready for an elevation to the national squad.
“I’m very happy, I’m very excited,” said Nodada. “To be called up among the best in the country is a great feeling, a great honour. It shows that what I’m doing is appreciated, not just by my teammates, but by the national team set-up and the people of South Africa. I can’t wait to test myself against the best.
“It means a lot. As a kid growing up, those players are your heroes, and to be with Bafana, and to have the whole nation behind you, that is the ultimate goal. For me, to get it at the tender age of 23, I have to be proud of myself. I’m very happy, It means a lot.”
Nodada admitted the call-up was a bit of a surprise.
“I won’t say it was the least expected this time around,” he said. “Before I was really grafting and then, when the squad was named and I wasn’t in it, I would be shattered. So I let time take its course. I didn’t put my mind to it a lot because we were involved in the MTN8, and that was my main focus.
“A surprise, yes, and you could see that in my shock after the announcement.” The City midfielder explained the change in his game this season, and why he is feeling a lot more confident.
“A lot of buttons have changed,” said Nodada. “I think it started when City gave me the Player of the Season award – it was (a) stamp, a validation of my ability.
“It did wonders for my confidence. Everybody believed in me, the coach believed in me, my family and the people of Cape Town.
“It’s a great feeling – and that has helped me so much in my game.”
Now, as he prepares for the Seychelles, Nodada isn’t too sure what to expect, but he’s relishing the opportunity to be part of SA’s best footballers, and to work with Baxter.