Bafana dream comes true for a Maritzburg United player

2014-12-19 00:00

DREAMS do come true. Just ask 25-year-old Maritzburg United winger Mondli Cele.

A little more than six months ago, he was earning next to nothing playing in the third tier of South African football — the ABC Motsepe League — with Gamalakhe United on the South Coast.

Yesterday he was named in Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba’s preliminary squad of 34 for next month’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea. That squad will be trimmed down to 23 on December 30, following a five-day training camp in Johannesburg from December 26.

“I almost died,” Cele told The Witness yesterday, recalling his reaction to the news.

The burly midfielder was spotted during a Nedbank Cup game between Gamalakhe and Santos last season. United coach Steve Komphela was watching that game and liked what he saw.

Cele was invited to the Midlands for a trial with the Team of Choice and impressed.

He returned to the South Coast to finish the season with Gamalakhe, but had done enough to finally earn himself a PSL contract at the start of the 2014/15 season.

He hasn’t looked back. Since then he has featured in all of Maritzburg’s 16 PSL matches, scoring three goals in the process, and has caught Mashaba’s attention with his strength, work rate, skill and pace.

“I know that I am old, I used to tell my team-mates at Gamalakhe all the time,” Cele said. “Even my mom told me this year to stop playing football. She said that I was too old and that I should go back to school. I spoke to her on the phone today [yesterday]. She couldn’t say anything because she was crying.”

Cele confirmed that his time at Gamalakhe was tough financially. The players earned R500 for every win, R250 for every away draw, and nothing for losses and home draws.

“When there were times that we didn’t win for a whole month, they would give us a little bit of money, but it was never a lot,” he said.

Cele has never had a job outside of football.

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