Making headlines for the right reasons … Mbulelo ‘OJ’ Mabizela.

2012-05-26 00:00

TAKE a bow Mbulelo “OJ” Mabizela.

The controversial football star from Pietermaritzburg has silenced doomsayers and critics by completing the season without attracting the wrong kinds of newspaper headlines.

To top it all, he was named the player of the season by Wits at their year-end function in Gauteng earlier this week.

It’s a deserved accolade for the gap-toothed defender as hasn’t put a foot wrong at the club that gave him a lifeline after many turned their backs on him.

This stems from the awkward relationships he had with previous clubs in a career spanning years.

OJ, who made history becoming the youngest captain for Orlando Pirates and later Bafana Bafana (44 caps), was tipped for greatness by experts and football-mad lovers alike.

But ill-discipline off the field too often overshadowed his immense talent on the field. His buccaneering role at the Sea Robbers brought the League title in 2002.

A dream move to Tottenham Hotspur the following season was short-lived, with the English Premiership showing him the door following reports of boozing until the wee hours of the morning at White Hart Lane.

This cost him the national team’s captaincy and a transfer to a quieter Valerenga followed, where he bagged a League title in Norway.

His return to these shores with Mamelodi Sundowns was an unpleasant in 2006 — receiving a six month ban accompanied by a R70 000 fine.

He would join Platinum Stars where his impressive form saw fans call for his inclusion to Bafana Bafana before the Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup.

Coach Alberto Parreira would not have none of that, once telling the media in Durban that “this person has been given many chances before … so why again?”

Then Wits coach Roger de Sa came calling, giving OJ a lifeline while many had written him off.

The player from Sobantu will be expected to perform out of his skin next season to repay the coach after Wits endured a disappointing run, finishing a lowly 12th position on the log.

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