Cele in the big league

2014-12-19 00:00

MARITZBURG United midfielder Mondli Cele was the surprise selection in Shakes Mashaba’s provisional 34-man squad who will do battle at ­Afcon 2015 in Equatorial Guinea next month.

It is a story that warms the heart and one that has seen Cele move from third tier football with Gamalakhe United to the PSL and then the Bafana squad in a little more than six months.

Having featured in all 16 of United’s PSL fixtures so far this season, Cele has been a shining light for the Team of Choice since his arrival and has been instrumental in the new-found attacking intensity that currently ­accompanies the United philosophy. He is quicker than most, stronger than most and, perhaps most importantly, as humble as they come.

Maritzburg team manager Quinton Jettoo gave Cele the news yesterday morning.

For a player to be discovered so late — Cele is 25 — is not uncommon in this country. It is further indication that the development structures in SA football still have a long way to go, but none of that matters to Cele now.

“I was not ready for this,” he told The Witness yesterday. “I’m so happy. Today is a good day. I don’t even know what to say.”

Cele had been playing his football at ABC Motsepe League (South ­Africa’s third tier) club Gamalakhe United on the South Coast, where he had all but accepted that he was not going to make it in the world of ­professional football.

“I didn’t think it was going to ­happen,” Cele acknowledged. “But if you love something you will keep ­doing it and keep trying. It was hard, but I always kept the faith.”

And now, a little more than six months after his big break came in signing for United, Cele is at the top of the world. And he has earned it through hard work and doing the ­business on the field.

“I am playing well at the moment and this has been a great season for me,” he added. “Now I need to keep working hard to impress coach [Shakes] Mashaba.”

There is a good chance that Cele won’t go to Afcon. The squad will be trimmed down to 23 after a five-day training camp beginning on Boxing Day in Johannesburg. But regardless of what happens from here, Cele can safely say that he has risen to the top of this country’s football community.

He will be joined in the training squad by Maritzburg centre-back Kwanda Mngonyama, who earned his international debut in last month’s 2-0 win over Ivory Coast.

“He is a close friend of mine so I am happy to be in the set-up with him,” Cele said of Mngonyama. ­“I have great team-mates. They are always motivating me to do well.”

Elsewhere in KZN, Durban’s ­AmaZulu can once more celebrate in the selection of their striker Bongani Ndulula. There was, however, no place for former captain and goalkeeper ­Itumeleng Khune, whose continuing struggle with an ankle injury ­combined with his absence throughout Afcon qualifying see him miss out.

Bafana kick off their Afcon campaign against Algeria on January 19.


Goalkeepers: Darren Keet, Jackson Mabokgwane, Siyabonga Mpontshane, Brilliant Khuzwayo.

Defenders: Siyabonga Nhlapho, Patrick Phungwayo, Anele Ngcongca, Ntsikelelo Nyauza, Kwandakwentsizwa Mngonyama, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Erick Mathoho, Rivaldo Coetzee, Thabo Matlaba, Mzikayise Mashaba.

Midfielders: Themba Zwane, Andile Jali, Asavele Mbekile, Vuyisile Wana, Jabulani Shongwe, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Bongani Zungu, Thamsanqa Sangweni, Dean Furman, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Oupa Manyisa, Mondli Cele, Mandla Masango, Thulani Serero, Thuso Phala.

Strikers: Ayanda Patosi, Bernard Parker, David Zulu, Tokelo Rantie, Bongani


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