Sea of blue for local stars

2018-05-22 16:00
Delighted pupils from Mehlokazulu Secondary School in Imbali got to meet the Maritzburg United team during a parade through the city and suburbs after the team returned from Cape Town,

Delighted pupils from Mehlokazulu Secondary School in Imbali got to meet the Maritzburg United team during a parade through the city and suburbs after the team returned from Cape Town, (Ian Carbutt)

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Large crowds filled the sun-kissed streets of Pietermaritzburg on Monday to hail their hometown football heroes, Maritzburg United, at the end of an incredible season for the club.

The Team of Choice players were driven through the streets in an open-top bus to celebrate a historic season filled with record-breaking achievements. They finished fourth in the 2017/18 Absa Premiership season, behind the country’s top three sides, Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, and they also reached their first ever Cup final where they lost 1-0 to Free State Stars in Cape Town at the weekend.

All the members of the team and the club directors were on the top deck as they cruised around, carrying blue and white flags.

Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo also participated in the celebrations, with the team being well received by the jubilant crowds throughout the stops the team made.

The parade started at Harry Gwala Stadium through to Imbali and Edendale townships, making stops at Mehlokazulu High School and the Edendale Mall and the new taxi rank in town, giving fans a chance to see their heroes, singing and cheering their local football stars.

They continued their festivities in Eastwood, Raisethorpe and Sobantu as the Blue Army of fans flooded the streets to greet their heroes and get a chance to take pictures and chat to them.

Star local player Siphesihle Ndlovu was taken aback by the enthusiasm of the thousands of flag-waving fans.

“It’s incredible to see so many people coming here to see us. It’s more special for me because these are my people. I’m from around here,” said the Mpumuza-born Ndlovu.

The 21-year-old attacking midfielder was part of the team that lost 1-0 in the Nedbank Cup final against Free State Stars in Cape Town but despite Saturday’s disappointment, he felt they had done exceptionally well as a team.

Only three players had experienced a Cup final before.

However, club coach Fadlu Davids, and his captain Bevan Fransman, were not part of the parade for different reasons, while striker Andrea Fileccia left early to catch a flight back home to Belgium for the off-season period.

Most of the team wore the club’s merchandise and carried flags while the staff also soaked up the atmosphere atop the brightly decorated bus, taking a number of photos with their fans.

Mohau Mokate, Lebohang Maboe, Pogiso Sanoka and Bandile Shandu were in good spirits as they entertained the crowds with their dancing skills and were clearly enjoying the opportunity to celebrate with supporters.

Xolani Shabane from Edendale said he was particularly proud to see the club punch above their weight to finish in the top eight for a second consecutive season.

“It’s really been an exciting season for the team. They’ve made the city proud. They made the top eight and that alone is a big achievement for such a small club. But to finish fourth was really amazing.”

Another fan, Nomfundo Dlamini from Snathing, said she was happy to finally see the players as she had only seen them on television.

“They have put our city on the map.”

Sbangani Mbhele said: “I’ve been following the team for a while now. The boys are representing us well. I know they will win us a trophy soon. They play beautiful football and we cannot wait for next season.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  maritzburg united

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