The soft-spoken Themba Zwane has already established himself as one of the most influential figures in the local game and on the African continent.
Now, he has just won the inaugural SA Football Journalists’ Association’s (Safja) Men’s Footballer of the Year after helping Mamelodi Sundown claim a historic domestic treble last season.
Zwane, who is rated as Sundowns’ most important player’ by Pitso Mosimane, says he owes a debt of gratitude to South African football legend and former teammate Teko Modise for the unwavering support “from day one”.
The lad affectionately known as ‘Mshishi’ by admirers of his on-field exploits ended the 2019/20 campaign with an impressive 26-goal contribution (14 goals and 12 assists) in 41 matches across all competitions.
Zwane spoke fondly of Modise during a Safja digital ceremony where he was named Journalists’ Footballer of the Season on Tuesday in Johannesburg.
“From day one at Sundowns, he [Modise] was there for me even when I went to Aces [now-defunct Mpumalanga Black Aces] he used to call me and say ‘you know what you did well but you can give more’, the ‘Mshishi’ that I know can do better until today,” said Zwane.
The 31-year-old speedy playmaker joined Sundowns back in 2011 and was unveiled with Modise at a press conference in Chloorkop and has enjoyed much success at the club and has under his belt four league titles, the Nedbank Cup, the Telkom Knockout, the CAF Champions League and the CAF Super Cup.
“I always wish to play with Teko in the same team, yes I managed to play with him at Phillys Games, in Tembisa but it was not enough but he is the guy that I look up to,” added Zwane.
Modise and former Zwane’s coach, 1996 Africa Cup of Nations winner Clive Barker, once compared the tricky Sundowns star to Doctor Khumalo – the heartbeat of the Bafana Bafana team that conquered the continent on home soil in 1996.
Last season Zwane undoubtedly showed why Barker and Modise made such bold statements.
“We still talk, we analyse my games, he tells me where to improve. Teko has played a big role in my career and I really appreciate him,” said Zwane.
The Bafana midfielder went on to reveal that he tips Kaizer Chiefs’ Lebogang Manyama to walk away with the Premier Soccer League (PSL) Players’ Player of the Season.
Manyama had a decent 2019/20 season in the colours of ‘Amakhosi’, providing 10 assists with 7 goals to his name.
“I will vote for Manyama, he did well for his team, creating goals and scored crucial goals his team. He made his team play, he has lots of energy and improved with each game,” concluded Zwane.
By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi