Wits’ Monare loves the new mid­field com­pe­ti­tion

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

THE rain that hit Mbombela Sta­dium in the MTN8 fi­nal last year masked Tha­bang Monare’s tears of joy and sad­ness af­ter fi­nally be­com­ing a cham­pion in the Premier Di­vi­sion.

The Bid­vest Wits mid­fielder from Em­balenhle in Nel­spruit was happy he lifted his first tro­phy in his home­town. But he was sad that it re­minded him of how lit­tle time he spent with his late grand­fa­ther as Wits won the MTN8 ex­actly 20 years af­ter he passed away on Oc­to­ber 1, 1996.

That emo­tional at­tach­ment to this tro­phy drives the 27-year-old to help the Clever Boys re­tain it. The Mil­park-based side host Golden Ar­rows at Bid­vest Sta­dium tonight in the open­ing round of the tour­na­ment.

“It was nice to get my first tro­phy in my home turf,” Monare said. “It meant a lot, es­pe­cially also com­ing on a day that has been as­so­ci­ated with sad­ness in our fam­ily. But the re­al­ity is our suc­cess from last sea­son is gone now.”

Monare con­tin­ued, “It’s a new sea­son with the same goals, if not more. I want to achieve as much as I can be­fore the end of my ca­reer. For me to do that, I have to al­ways look for­ward to what’s com­ing next and for­get what I have won and done in the past. That’s how you stay at the top.”

An­other rea­son why Monare doesn’t like to dwell much on the past is that it wasn’t kind to him be­fore he won the MTN8 and the Pre­mier­ship with Wits.

A sea­son be­fore that suc­cess he was rel­e­gated with Jomo Cos­mos. The Ezenkosi chap­ter is a happy one, com­pared to what hap­pened be­fore it, he was af­ter all play­ing in the pro­fes­sional set-up and was get­ting paid then. Be­fore Monare joined Ezenkosi he was with FC AK and didn’t earn any­thing. He joined FC AK af­ter be­ing re­leased by Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria in 2011. While his ca­reer was stag­nant, his friends, Andile Jali and Aubrey Ngoma, were flour­ish­ing. Now he is mak­ing up for lost time. “To be hon­est with you, I never saw my­self as any­thing else in life be­sides be­ing a foot­baller,” Monare said. “I was so ob­sessed with be­ing a foot­baller that there was no room for me to even think about quit­ting. That’s what kept me go­ing. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I am not done yet. I have to con­tinue work­ing hard. I want to make my fam­ily proud. They were used to watch­ing other peo­ple on TV and now the next thing they’re watch­ing me. It’s un­real to see peo­ple around me, peo­ple who saw my strug­gle, be­ing happy at what I have achieved.”

A year ago, Xola Mlambo and Monare joined a Wits team which had a for­mi­da­ble cen­tral mid­field pair­ing in Phum­lani Nt­shangase and Ben Motshwari. Mlambo and Monare man­aged to re­place the two and guide Wits to the MTN8 tro­phy.

Monare is now look­ing to en­sure Steven Pien­aar and Day­lon Claasen don’t do what he and Mlambo did to Nt­shangase and Motshwari.

“Their pres­ence (Pien­aar and Claasen) is good, look­ing at where they played... in Europe,” Monare said. “We can learn a lot from them. We (I and Mlambo) came to a strong mid­field last year and the com­pe­ti­tion was good, it made us as in­di­vid­u­als want to im­prove and get bet­ter. The team ben­e­fited by that and it will ben­e­fit again with this ar­rival.”

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