Mamelodi Sundowns hammered La Passe FC 7-0 in the preliminary qualifiers of the CAF Champions League on Sunday afternoon in Pretoria, amongst the goal scorers was Sphelele Mkhulise who got his first goal of the season in the clash. Mkhulise worked up a sweat to see himself deliver an incredible performance against the Seychelles visitors, the 26-year-old midfielder gave an account of behind the scenes work that he’s been putting in to get back into the starting lineup.
“What we want is to come with the same mentality as the last game, which is to focus and work hard because we’ve planned for our next games, Marumo Gallants and Orlando Pirates that we will be playing after this. It won’t help us to reduce our pace now just because we are leading by 7-0, we still need to continue running, working hard and scoring goals. I was happy to score a goal, to try and be a starting player here I have to listen to the coaches. I have to work hard, I have to run, score goals and assist with goals and that’s what [the coaches] always tell us. They tell us to work hard and stay focused all the time and whenever you get a chance to play, you must be ready.”
“As a professional soccer player you always have to stay focused, keep working hard and be ready for your chance all the time because when you play for a big club such as Mamelodi Sundowns there are many players here that represent their national teams on an international level. It was difficult at first but I had to work hard and be ready for my chance. I never got discouraged because I know how hard the players are working. We are winning our games and I just have to support them.”
Masandawana made seven big signings for the 2022/23′ season in an attempt to continue their dominance in the Premier Soccer League and chase the Caf Champions League title. The arrival of the new players at Chloorkop come at a time where “Pitso” – as he is called by his football mates, is fighting for his way into the starting eleven and regular time, however the young maestro sees the addition of the international arrivals as encouragement to elevate his game, he said: “It motivates me, it doesn’t put me under pressure because they’ve arrived here to improve the team and help us. I’ve been trying to develop play most of the time and not always putting myself in the box and I would make the team play, but I’ve realized that in order to improve my game I have to get assists and goals.”
Bafana Ba Style mentor, Coach Manqoba Mngqithi added to Mkhulise’s cheerful attitude and said: “It’s always nice and refreshing when I hear a boy talking the way he talks, because it’s talks that I have with him as well as the other coaches [have with him] and I want to reaffirm In front of all of you that he is one of the most talented players that South Africa has produced. I am not talking because he’s here, but he’s one of the most talented players. One of the reasons we promoted him was because we wanted something close to Themba Zwane, something that can really help us in attack and his game has been lacking either assisting the assist, or assisting or scoring.”
“That is what we’ve been working very hard on and that is what we are trying very hard to improve. Less than 50% of you know that he’s such a good dribbler, very few people know that because he’s an introvert and he plays a game that is not as arrogant as we would like him to be. In terms of establishing play, and consolidating our play, he’s one player that we know when we are not playing well we’ve always gone back to him to say make the team to play, but it’s not enough because when we make the lineup we are looking at all the metrics; expected goals, expected assists, expected runs into the box and all these metrics and if they are not coming right for an offensive player it ends up creating problems for the player.”
Mamelodi Sundowns meet up with La Passe FC in the CAF Champions League second leg of the second preliminary fixtures on Friday, 14 October at Loftus Versfeld Stadium. Kick off is at 17H30, live on SuperSport.