No­dada rel­ish­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties he’s get­ting un­der Benni

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - ROD­NEY REINERS

IN­DUS­TRI­OUS Cape Town City mid­fielder Thabo No­dada has blos­somed since the ar­rival of Benni McCarthy as coach. The Cape side takes on Baroka FC in the open­ing round of the Telkom Knock­out Cup at the Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium in Polok­wane this af­ter­noon (kick-off 3.30pm) – and McCarthy is look­ing for an­other com­mit­ted, de­ter­mined ef­fort from the in-form No­dada.

The Dur­ban-born player strug­gled last year af­ter mak­ing the trip down to the Mother City as part of the Mpumalanga Black Aces con­tin­gent. When John Comi­tis pur­chased the Aces fran­chise, and re­lo­cated the club and the play­ers to the Cape, No­dada was al­ready bat­tling in­jury. Eric Tin­kler was in charge of City – No­dada was on the come­back trail af­ter in­jury, but never saw much game-time, es­pe­cially with the team in such good form.

This sea­son, though, McCarthy has quickly warmed to the tire­less No­dada. It’s no se­cret the City coach de­mands fight­ing spirit from his play­ers, some­thing he gets week af­ter week from the 22-year-old mid­fielder. For ex­am­ple, in the MTN8 fi­nal two weeks ago, No­dada cov­ered an as­ton­ish­ing 15.6 kilo­me­tres dur­ing the game.

Now, as Baroka loom in the open­ing round of this event, and with City the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, No­dada ad­mit­ted the in­flu­ence McCarthy has had on his rapid emer­gence this sea­son.

“I’m happy with the progress in my ca­reer,” said No­dada. “With this team if you put in the work, you get a chance. It is not about age. The coaches look at all the play­ers the same way.

“With coach Benni, I lis­ten to all the point­ers he gives and take them se­ri­ously. I’m con­tin­u­ing to work hard in ev­ery game and ev­ery train­ing ses­sion.”

No­dada has al­ready been nick­named “Kante” by his team­mates and the City fans. It’s a ref­er­ence to French mid­fielder N’Golo Kante, who was the ful­crum of ti­tle-win­ning teams at Le­ices­ter City and Chelsea. A worka­holic foot­baller, who cov­ers ev­ery blade of grass, Kante’s stamina and abil­ity are ad­mired world-wide.

“It’s ob­vi­ously a big mo­ti­va­tion,” said No­dada. “He (Kante) has done won­ders in his ca­reer, so just to be com­pared to him is an hon­our – and it also shows that my hard work on the field is be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated.”

Baroka, though, will be tough to­day. They are among the in-form teams at the mo­ment, and are the cur­rent PSL log lead­ers.

They are es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult to break down at home. But City are con­fi­dent that, de­spite three suc­ces­sive de­feats, they can turn things around to­day.

“There is al­ways pres­sure, in ev­ery game, but us be­ing the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons of this com­pe­ti­tion, is added mo­ti­va­tion for us to do well,” said No­dada.

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