How the hard-work­ing Mamelodi Sun­downs mid­fielder rose to the top

Kick Off - - INSIDE - |

From idol­is­ing the likes of Sur­prise Moriri, Le­bo­hang Mokoena and Teko Modise to playing along­side them at Mamelodi Sun­downs, Themba Zwane’s jour­ney to the top has been in­spir­ing. Here, the mid­fielder shares his story of how he never gave up as he waited for his op­por­tu­nity to be a key mem­ber of the The Brazil­ians’ all-con­quer­ing team. The story of Zwane doesn’t end there: his hard work also scored him a new en­dorsed car this year af­ter sign­ing a deal with Volk­swa­gen South Africa to be their brand am­bas­sador.

KICK OFF: Most foot­ballers don’t start their pro­fes­sional foot­ball ca­reers playing for a big team like Mamelodi Sun­downs, but you did. How do you feel about it, look­ing back on it to­day?

THEMBA ZWANE: I was very lucky to start my ca­reer at Mamelodi Sun­downs. It was a bless­ing for me be­cause when I started, I played with the likes of Sur­prise [Moriri], Teko [Modise], “Cheese­boy” [Le­bo­hang Mokoena] and [Elias] Pelembe, and I’ve learnt a lot from them. As time went by, it was easy for me to ad­just in terms of be­ing a pro­fes­sional player. Al­though the com­pe­ti­tion was tough, I was pa­tient enough to wait and learn from them. I was for­tu­nate to play with those guys and I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the op­por­tu­nity I was given.

What chal­lenges did you face while try­ing to break into the start­ing line-up?

I faced a lot of chal­lenges. For ex­am­ple, the pace of the game and the think­ing was dif­fer­ent. My pace and think­ing was very slow in com­par­i­son. As a pro­fes­sional player, you need to think fast, you need to know where you are go­ing to pass the ball be­fore it even comes to you. You need to know what is hap­pen­ing be­hind you so that you can make de­ci­sions quicker. Those are some of the chal­lenges I faced when I started.

Which play­ers did you look up to be­fore you be­came a reg­u­lar?

Sur­prise, Cheese­boy, Pelembe and Papi Zoth­wane – those were the play­ers that I looked up to be­cause I was playing as a Num­ber 10, and as a right winger. I would watch them all the time so that I could learn from them and make things eas­ier for my­self when I went onto the field.

are now a CAF Cham­pi­ons League and CAF Su­per Cup cham­pion ...

Life is full of sur­prises! It was very hard to win those cups, but we did it. It was a very long jour­ney and we had to work hard for it. But it was very ex­cit­ing; it showed that hard work pays off and as a team, we did very well. It was very hard be­cause most of the time we were not at home as we were trav­el­ling, so we needed to show char­ac­ter. We needed to ad­just as a team in all the coun­tries we played in and I’m very thrilled to be a part of his­tory and a part of the team that won both the Cham­pi­ons League and Su­per Cup.

Do you think fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the league last sea­son was a good ef­fort?

Re­mem­ber, we didn’t have an off sea­son break like all the other 15 teams we faced in the Premier­ship, so yes, I think we did well last sea­son in the league. If you re­view the games we lost or drew, we were the bet­ter team on that day and we cre­ated more chances, but we didn’t take them. If you don’t take your chances, you will suf­fer. This shows that this sea­son we need to work even harder on tak­ing our chances.

Is it safe to say that Downs will be un­der less pres­sure this sea­son as all eyes will be on Bid­vest Wits?

No, no, no! We will still be un­der pres­sure be­cause we are Mamelodi Sun­downs. We are ex­pected to win ev­ery cup, so we need to push and bring those cups home. We need the Ned­bank Cup ... ac­tu­ally, we need all the cups.

De­scribe playing with the likes of Hlom­pho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda in mid­field?

It’s very ex­cit­ing be­cause they have ex­pe­ri­ence and have been in this game for long. They are al­ways pos­i­tive and al­ways talk to me, teach­ing me what to do in the mid­field. They make things much eas­ier, and I learn a lot from all the older guys.

Do you have dreams of playing overseas now?

It’s any player’s dream to play overseas. So yes, I do dream of playing overseas. I want to go to France or Por­tu­gal or Spain. Those are some of the leagues I want to see my­self playing in, in­clud­ing Bel­gium or Ger­many.

What can we ex­pect from Themba Zwane this sea­son?

Peo­ple can ex­pect to see a player that is giv­ing his 100-per­cent and scor­ing goals for the team.

What do you want to say to upand-com­ing young­sters, if they want to achieve what you have?

If you want to be a pro­fes­sional player, you need to fo­cus on foot­ball. You need to work hard and be pre­pared to sac­ri­fice a lot. There are a lot of things that hap­pen in the lo­ca­tions, but you can’t do all those things if you want to be­come a pro­fes­sional soc­cer player. You need to go the ex­tra mile, be pos­i­tive and, most im­por­tantly, you need to wait for your chance be­cause God’s tim­ing is al­ways right.

MAKHOSONKE ZUMA Twit­ter: @MakhoBig10

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