Johannesburg – David Mathebula had cause for a double celebration this week when he received a Bafana Bafana call-up just a day before SuperSport United moved to the top of the Premiership table with a derby win over University of Pretoria in midweek.
Mathebula waited for about 10 years to get a national team call-up. And now in just a space of the month, the 30-year-old is set to feature for the national team a second time – against Zimbabwe early next month – after making his debut in a 2-0 win over Burkina Faso a couple of weeks ago during the Nelson Mandela Sports Day.
“I can’t even explain the feeling of making my debut for the national team. It was such a big day. It was an opportunity to rub shoulders with some some of the finest talent we have in this country. I think my family and friends were excited more than me. I guess maybe it’s because I am a reserved guy. But they were really happy for me.
“Being selected for the national team shows I’m doing well and that I am playing good football,” he said after SuperSport registered a 1-0 win over their rivals AmaTuks on Wednesday.
Mathebula was overlooked for years by Bafana coaches, despite showing great form at some point during his days at Kaizer Chiefs, and then later at Moroka Swallows, where he scored 10 league goals in the league in his first campaign before injury ruined his second season. A move from Swallows to SuperSport now seems to have done the trick for Mathebula, who has made a good start to life with Matsatsantsa.
“Most of the time when I was not getting call-ups, other players in my position were doing well, like (Reneilwe) Letsholonyane, (Oupa) Manyisa and (Thulani) Serero, but I did not give up on playing for my country because Gordon kept pushing when he was at Swallows, so too did my family.
“My family was so happy because I had been working so hard for many years and I was not getting a call-up,” said Mathebula, who had actually hoped he would play at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
“We were in camp (with Chiefs) in Durban when it was announced that South Africa would be hosting the World Cup. I don’t remember who my roommate was, but we celebrated.
“I was hoping to play for the national team at the World Cup on home soil. Unfortunately, a few months before the camp in Brazil I got injured. I don’t say I was going to make the squad, but I thought based on my form I would get a look in.
“But now I still have a chance to represent the nation and I’m happy about that. I’m 30. And at 30, I can still get more call-ups. I didn’t represent my country at junior level, so I have to try and be consistent to stay in the team.”
Mathebula and his SuperSport teammates face his former side Chiefs, who come from a defeat to Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 and a 1-1 draw with Swallows on Tuesday, on Saturday at Lucas Moripe Stadium (6pm) – the third match of the season.
Mathebula spent seven years at Chiefs, but could never really win a place in the starting line-up long enough to convince any national coach to call him up and was eventually loaned out to Mpumalanga Black Aces.
He’s now determined to help SuperSport upset Amakhosi, who have looked vulnerable in defence lately. That however, is no reason to underestimate the league’s defending champions, Mathebula warns.
“This will be a tough game. We want to win things as much as they do. Chiefs drew against Swallows, but they are still champs, so it won’t be easy for us. They’ve got national team players, but we will do our best.”
SuperSport would move five points clear of the champions if they win on Saturday in Pretoria, keeping them at the top. That’s where they want to stay for the entire season, just as Amakhosi did last season – they were just toppled once the entire campaign, for about two days, by their rivals Pirates
“I believe we can win the league. You can’t compete and not think about winning it. I’m not a prophet, but I believe we can. We will try and collect as many points as we can,” he added.