Loyalists who keep the ball rolling

2012-03-03 21:45

At a time when players are changing clubs in search of greener pastures, there are still a few who remain loyal to the teams that made them.

There are various reasons players leave clubs – from lack of action to demands for more money – but for some, money’s not everything.

When midfielder Benedict Vilakazi left Orlando Pirates in 2007 after almost 10 years, he missed the chance to become one of the club’s legends.

As it turned out, the diminutive player who rose through the junior ranks at the club has not been the same since and might forever regret leaving Bucs.

Vilakazi has since hopped from one club to the other – from Mamelodi Sundowns to Mpumalanga Black Aces and is now at the struggling Black Leopards.

Unlike Vilakazi, former Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Thabo Mooki has been a loyal servant of the club, having played 407 times in the black and gold colours from 1994 to 2009.

In fact, Chiefs seem to have a formula for keeping their players, as demonstrated not only by Mooki but also Gerald Sibeko and former left-back Ntsie Maphike, who started and retired at the club. Even after hanging up his boots, Maphike is still attached to the club in the junior divisions now.

Moroka Swallows legend Andries Mpondo is another who has served the Dube Birds with aplomb.

Mpondo, who still holds the club’s record for playing 49 games in a season, is also still at the club today.

Ryan Giggs and Paolo Maldini have also demonstrated that loyalty pays. They stuck to their first professional clubs, Manchester United and AC Milan, respectively, and last weekend Giggs played his 900th game for United, joining the Milan legend in the 900 exclusive club.

Maldini played 903 matches for the former Italian champions.

The 38-year-old Welsh winger Giggs has won four FA Cups, two Champions Leagues and has 12 Premier League winners medals. A one-club man, Giggs holds the record for the most competitive appearances for the Red Devils.

He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2007 for services to football and won BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2009.

Maldini spent all 25 seasons of his career at Serie A club Milan, retiring at the age of 41 in 2009.

He won the Champions League five times, as well as seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, five Supercoppa Italiana places, five European Super Cups and two Inter-continental Cups.

He played for 14 years for the Italian national team, making his debut in 1988 before retiring in 2002 with 126 caps and four World Cup appearances.

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