Football is certainly a tricky game! Days are never the same.
The chips have a tendency of often being down. And often, when they are down, the discouraging banter gets to the players.
But that one guy who walks into the dressing room and cheers everyone up when the going gets tough is undoubtedly priceless.
At Kaizer Chiefs, his name is Ramahlwe Mphahlele.
It is no surprise that Chiefs’ resurgence has coincided with Mphahlele wearing the captain’s armband.
And he has worn it with pride as Amakhosi swiftly emerge from the dark shadows, with Mphahlele leading the pack with such aplomb.
Of course, whether they can sustain their form – two successive wins – is a subject for another day, but the one thing that’s clear is that with Mphahlele as the official leader, things are seemingly taking a turn for the better.
“The mentality has been good and I’m happy for the team. We can only improve from here,” Mphahlele buoyantly said following his Man of the Match performance in the 2-1 win over Cape Town City in the Western Cape over the weekend.
A born leader, the 30-year-old has taken a tumble and got back up, much the same way the team’s struggles are well documented.
Forget that last season he only played just six (6) games and was clearly out of favour under Ernst Middendorp. He is back. And as they say, class is permanent, Mphahlele brings it coupled with exceptional leadership qualities.
Interestingly, despite being sidelined last season, he carried on with the same positive attitude, often sharing positive thoughts about the team.
Armed with the same positive mentality, he has made 13 appearances under Gavin Hunt.
The two know each other pretty well, dating back to their days at Moroka Swallows over a decade ago.
And so, when Hunt looked around his dressing room for characters to stand up and be counted, he knew the former Mamelodi Sundowns man would stand the test of time.
Of course, Mphahlele has always been in the captain’s committee at the Naturena-based club, but the reality is he wasn’t playing last term.
Over the years, however, he’s never been one to throw in a towel and that has led to great success, even at Sundowns where he won several trophies before his departure to the Soweto giants in 2016.
Mphahlele took over the armband in the match against Bloemfontein Celtic and his guidance, from a centre back role, has resulted in a turn of fortunes for Amakhosi.
Since then, Chiefs have won three, drew two and lost just once, which was against Maritzburg United at home.
In Mphahlele, Chiefs boast of a player who’s always played a leadership role from a young age. Besides leading from the front at club level, he has also been captain at junior national team level.
Admittedly, Chiefs haven’t turned the corner by any means. It’s still early days yet, but they are now in the top eight heading into today’s encounter against Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila at FNB Stadium (17:00).
Mphahlele, however, has insisted in media interviews that Chiefs players will give everything to improve their performance and get back to winning ways, consistently.
Without a doubt, Chiefs are in good hands. After all, Mphahlele is a man of his word!
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By Tiyani wa ka Mabasa