Madondo: Middendorp has helped me believe in myself

2010-02-23 00:00

AFTER showing early potential since being introduced to the Maritzburg United first team at the end of last season, 19-year-old midfielder Kulegani “Chilis” Madondo has blossomed and become a crowd favourite this season.

Madondo has developed from the skilful youngster with an eye for a pass, but who could give the ball away too easily and struggled in physical confrontations, to a fully-fledged PSL player whose performances in a high responsibility defensive midfield position have played a key role in United’s turnaround this season.

“A lot of it has to do with the coach [Ernst Middendorp] helping me to believe in myself,” the youngster, who turns 20 in June, said. “Knowing that the coach has trusted me enough to keep playing me, I had to give something back to him for showing that confidence in me.”

Madondo, a product of United’s youth system via a stint at Wits University’s development programme, grew up in Mafakathini outside Howick. There he was coached by highly-rated current Golden Arrows coach Manqoba Mngqithi, then a teacher at Howick Secondary School.

The player says he is not surprised to have adapted so quickly to a defensive midfield position normally entrusted to older heads.

“I grew up playing in that position from when I was 11 or 12. I have been working very hard and not looking at my age, but at doing the job. Playing so many games has been a very big thing for me.

“I have definitely improved, especially with what I have been trying to learn from the players around me, being humble and listening to instructions. On the pitch my age does not matter, especially with the advice I get from players like Elias Ngwepe and Peter Petersen.

“Even Bheka Phakathi, who is competing with me for my position, always pushes me and gives me advice. It’s really helped me develop.”

An injury to last season’s player of the year, John Arwuah, opened the way for Madondo to get more game time, and the youngster has not looked back.

“John knows that even when he was not injured I was working hard and pushing him for that position,” Madondo said. “And now I have improved there, and I think he knows he will have to work hard to take it back.”

Madondo says a lot of work in the gym has helped him develop the physical side of his game, where he used to struggle against robust midfielders like Tinashe Nengomasha and Esrom Nyandoro.

The midfielder says United’s turnaround under Middendorp has largely been down to the coach getting players to realise their potential as individuals, within a team framework.

“The coach has helped us to see our individual ability, play football and do what we do best. There is also better organisation in the team, and we pass better. We play to the basics and keep it simple. The coach has said he doesn’t want jiggle jaggle and don’t try fancy stuff, but play the modern game and use the ball quickly and efficiently.”

That much is all very well, but United would dearly love a top eight finish to complement all the hard work. To do that they are likely to have to beat Free State Stars — coached by Gordon Igesund, who was replaced by Middendorp at United in November — in their second-last game in QwaQwa tomorrow night.

“The coach has told us to treat it like any other game,” Madondo said. “Free State might expect us to come up there and try to do something different, but we just have to keep sticking to the basics.”

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