Veteran Onyango just keeps going
SUNDOWNS GOALKEEPER SHARES A SPECIAL BOND WITH COACH MOSIMANE
Denis Onyango is one of the five Mamelodi Sundowns players who have been ever-present since head coach Pitso Mosimane assumed the role in December 2012. Onyango has enjoyed a lot of success as the number-one shot stopper at the club and he recently added another gold medal, making it nine titles under Mosimane as the Brazilians clinched the Telkom Knockout title on Saturday in Durban.
The Sundowns mentor and Onyango share a special relationship and Mosimane is always singing the praises of the Ugandan international, trusting him with all of the big games. Likewise, Onyango is quite fond of the former Bafana Bafana coach and he attributes their shared success to Mosimane’s tough love nature.
“It is a great feeling to have a coach who understands the players and we understand him. He can be a little bit harsh on the players but if you are not hard on the players they will not work hard or do what you want. He is a guy who always keeps us on our toes and we want to win as many titles as we can because we play for a win all the time,” said Onyango.
“As much as he trusts me I need to always give him confidence in me and I need to make sure that I help the team and do as much as I can. Sometimes it does not work out but when he believes in me I must show the team that I am a leader and I must produce the best all the time,” he added.
Now at 34-years-old and arguably nearing the decline stage of his career, Onyango says part of his game now includes mentoring the youngsters that Mosimane has promoted from the Multichoice Diski Challenge this season.
“The coach believes in a lot of players and he gave the youngster Sphelele Mkhulise a chance in the final with a lot of pressure so he believes in the youngsters but we also need the experience of the senior players to come through and help them develop because we were also helped at one stage. Part of my responsibility as a senior player is to help the youngsters so that they can do better.”
The Ugandan international has had a couple of horror and costly mistakes this season, which Mosimane always jokingly says he has a budget for. Onyango, meanwhile, says he does not have time to sulk over his glaring mistakes such as the one where the ball sneaked into the back of the net through his legs in a loss against Golden Arrows last month.
“First of all I need to understand that in the game of football there are mistakes and we can all make those mistakes if I don’t bounce back from them as a player it means I am digging a hole for myself so I need to focus on what is coming next and let it go then I move on. As a player, I have learnt that no one is going to feel sorry for you unless if work hard and give your best,” said Onyango who is looking to get into Africa’s best eleven again.
“I need to work hard and try to do well with the club but at the same time we are running a very difficult schedule and you cannot focus only on the individual side, you need to focus on both the team and yourself which sometimes can be difficult but if we win the Champions League and the league maybe it will work out but for now we keep working hard.”
Goalkeepers usually have longer careers than outfield players and they are believed to age like fine wine. Onyango admits that he might have to leave Sundowns at some point but wherever his next destination is, he is not planning on slowing down.
“Definitely not because as long as I am still around and playing in a top club I believe that I can win more. I still have the hunger inside me and also inspire youngsters and make them believe that if you believe in yourself and your abilities you can do well.”
As it stands, Onyango has won more league titles than any other goalkeeper in the league and if Masandawana manage to defend the Absa Premiership, Onyango, along with Sundowns captain Hlompho
Kekana will overtake Dane Klate to seven league titles. But first, Sundowns will need to narrow down Kaizer Chiefs’ lead at the top – something they did do a couple of seasons ago.
“I have seen this before, there was a time where they were leading us by more than 10 points and then we came from behind and we grabbed it. This is a marathon and not a sprint.”