A sensational year for captain Mbazo

2010-12-12 15:47

What a great year it has been for Bafana Bafana captain Aaron “Mbazo” Mokoena.

This year was ­Africa’s turn to host the Fifa soccer World Cup and it has also been an extraordinary one for Mokoena.

Like or loathe him, the ­Portsmouth?– league championship club?– captain has received some prestigious awards this year.

Last month he was presented with the Freedom of the City of London, making him the second South African after former president Nelson Mandela to be granted such recognition.

Last Friday he received the Safa President’s Award for his leadership of the national team during the June 11?– July 11 World Cup. The award also recognises him for being the most capped player in the history of South African football with 107 caps and for his proven service to his charitable foundation.

As if that is not enough for a single person in a year, on Wednesday he is expected to receive the MoneyGram African Player of the Month award for October.

Mokoena is the second ­recipient?– after Ivory Coast ­captain and Chelsea striker Didier Drogba?– of this new award ­established by the US-based, ­global money transfer company MoneyGram to recognise the ­contribution African ­players make to the UK leagues. Drogba was the recipient for the months of August and September.

Mbazo, as the 30-year-old ­defender is affectionately known, beat West Bromwich Albion and Democratic Republic of Congo midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu and marksman Maroaune Chamakh of Arsenal and Morocco to the prize. The award automatically entered his name into the African Player of the Season to be announced in May next year.

And to cap it all, Mokoena walked down the aisle in August.

The modest Mokoena said he still couldn’t believe what a year it has been for him. However, he said these were the rewards of the hard work and dedication he has always put in on and off the field.

“I still can’t believe it myself that I have managed to achieve so much this year. But it is all about discipline and setting goals for yourself,” he said, adding that: “I would not have achieved anything had it not been for the support I got from my family and friends.”

Mokoena said leaving his country of birth at age 17 helped him to develop a thick skin and to learn to fend for himself.

He added that working with ­different, experienced managers helped him to deal with criticism.

“I know that criticism is part and parcel of the game. But having worked with experienced managers has helped me to deal with all these situations.”
Mokoena is currently studying at Portsmouth University for a ­degree in sports business and management.

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