Mphela on killer return
KATLEGO Mphela's long injury lay-off appears to have been greatly exaggerated, at least by sacked Mamelodi Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens.
It did not take long for the new man at the helm at Chloorkop, Pitso Mosimane, to rope Mphela back into the team with his first match in charge.
The striker came off the bench in a 1-1 draw against Free State Stars last week.
Mphela, who had been on the sidelines for just over six months because of a knee injury, was then picked ahead of Eleazar Rogers, scorer of Sundowns' goal against Stars, in the starting line-up against Black Leopards on Sunday.
"Every coach makes his own decisions and the decision taken by the previous coach [Neeskens] was that I had to wait before I could play, and work harder before I could come back. But here I am, back with a goal," said Mphela.
This was after his solitary strike that handed Sundowns their third win of the season against Leopards.
He said he had no choice but to follow the "doctor's orders" even though Sundowns were languishing in the bottom half of the Absa Premiership table, while he sat and watched from the stands.
"When you are a footballer you always want to play and you see your team doing badly, struggling, you want to help. But there's nothing you can do but to follow the doctor's orders."
"Killer", the nickname given to him by fans because of his eye for goal, said he was delighted when he heard Mosimane would replace Neeskens.
"I have to be honest, it was a great feeling for me," Mphela said.
"I have worked with the man before, he understands me and I understand him. So I knew under him I was going to get some game time. I am glad he is here."
Mphela did, however, show he lacked match fitness against Leopards at the Lucas Moripe stadium. But, with Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund watching the striker score his first goal of the season, his chances of making the Africa Cup of Nations squad can only get better.
Today Igesund names his Bafana squad for the friendly against Malawi on December 22 at the Moses Mabhida stadium. Mphela wants to be part of the team.
"Everyone wants to play in the Afcon. It is every player's dream. But that is not in my hands. All I have to do is go out there and score some goals. It's up to the national team coach whether he selects me or not."
Mosimane would not be drawn into discussing the forward's chances of making the Bafana squad, but was willing to go into detail regarding Mphela's fitness.
"I know he is not fit, not even 90%. But you know the story with Mphela. He is not flashy, but you know what he will do for you," said Mosimane.
Mosimane has always made known his admiration for Mphela while he was Bafana coach.
"I asked him if he is feeling any pain. He said he is pain-free. So I said it was all in his mind. His team needs his help and he must go out there. He worked hard, but he was finished towards the end there," Mosimane said.