With the glitz, the glamour and the success that is synonymous with Mamelodi Sundowns, it’s unfathomable to find a long serving member with regrets.
And yet a member of the medical staff Sakhi Ngwevela, the club’s physiotherapist, has but one regret.
“Our loss in the MTN8 final against Kaizer Chiefs in Durban in 2008,” Ngwevela tells FARPost. “We should have won the game. Josta (Dladla) had a one-on-one with (Itumeleng) Khune but instead of scoring he decided to pass to (Collins) Mbesuma but the pass was too strong, it went out.
“Then there was a pass, a cross made for Surprise (Moriri) but it was too low. Since Surprise is a quick thinker, he wanted to score with his chest and he missed it. Eish that game. That’s the game where we should have buried Chiefs. I will never forget.”
What made it hard for Ngwevela to swallow the bitter pill – the 4-3 defeat on penalties, was that the physio together with keeper Brian Baloyi and talisman Moriri had already planned a celebration.
“While in Egypt, we came up with a celebration. Surprise and Brian were going to run to the bench and Surprise was going to sit on my back and play a piano while Brian was going to shine his boots. It was going to be a brilliant celebration. To this day we haven’t done it. I tease Surprise whenever I see him that ‘wan‘dlisa’.”
The gravity of that loss, compared to the many celebrations Ngwevela has had to enjoy, is nothing as Sundowns went on to rake in trophies. Ngwevela, who joined Sundowns during Gordon Igesund’s tenure in 2007, has a number of medals and souvenirs that adorn his favourite place – a sitting area with a bar, at his house in north of Johannesburg. Prior to Pitso Mosimane’s arrival Ngwevela had two medals – the SAA Supa8 and the Nedbank Cup won in 2007 and 2008. The two medals were special to the man from Kwa-Langa in Cape Town.
“What’s interesting about winning the two finals is that we (the medical team) had to work hard to get the scorers ready for matches. Before the Supa8 final Brent Carelse had a serious bruise. We had to manage him and get him ready for the final. He didn’t train the whole week. He only did something light on Friday and he went on to score the goal that won us the final. It was the same thing with Lerato Chabangu. He had sceptic blister. We had to manage him too and he scored in the final. Those two medals will always be special to me,” said Ngwevela.
From special, it was exceptional when Mosimane took the wheel at Downs to lead them to years of bliss. Ngwevela sat on a bench led by Mosimane as Sundowns amassed nine trophies. Ngwevela shed some light into how Mosimane got things right at Sundowns, who had endured a drought of seven years before the tactician from Kagiso arrived.
“What works for Pitso is that he is able to strike a balance. He comes from the township. He understands the township mentality of the players. He also wants to learn what other professionals are doing in terms of sports science. He has a keen interest in that.
“He is one of those coaches who, when he asks for your opinion, even if you disagree with him, he doesn’t take things personal. He understands you want to help him. He allows us space to advise him. He just doesn’t want you to tell him things he wants to hear,” said Ngwevela.
Mosimane recently renewed his contract and Ngwevela says the nine times PSL champions are still going to break records.
“I want to tell and show my grandchildren that I was there when Sundowns broke all the records. Right now it’s us and Pirates who have won the CAF Champions League once. So we are equal. We need another win to be ahead of them. Even with cup titles, it is Chiefs who are leading. We need to break records by winning more than them. We have been to the Club World Cup but we need to win it,” said the former national U23 physio.
With the PSL on recess owning to Covid-19 pandemic, Ngwevela can’t wait to get to reunite with his Sundowns family.
“I miss being with my second family – laughing and singing with the players. We see each other via Zoom meetings but it’s not like being there with the people. I can’t wait for football to come back on. We have to be back and continue our race for the league title. We have to win it.”
PSL clubs are still waiting for a directive from the government concerning a return to the pitch. In the meantime Ngwevela has no choice but to keep shining the medals at his house.
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