JOHANNESBURG - “I sit in the dressing room wondering how I got this far.” Hardly a statement you would expect from a Premier Soccer League player.
But this was midfielder Thabang Monare’s revelation on Monday as Bidvest Wits prepare to take on his old club Jomo Cosmos in the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup on Tuesday night at Tsakane Stadium.
A year ago, Monare captained a Cosmos side that struggled throughout their Absa Premiership campaign and were eventually relegated to the National First Division on the final day of the season, following defeat at home against Maritzburg United in Potchefstroom.
Monare had already secured his future in the elite league, having been courted by numerous clubs, including Wits.
He chose the Clever Boys, who met a buy-out clause of R300 000 as stipulated in his contract should Ezenkosi be relegated. Perhaps on Tuesday night Monare comes full circle.
“I share a change room now with players that have been there and done that,” said the 27-year-old.
“Quite a few times I wonder how I got this far. Football really is a strange game. I look around and there is Bongani Khumalo, who played for Tottenham Hotspur and Daine Klate who has won everything there is to win in this country.
“There is also Moeneeb Josephs, guys who have also been on the international stage with the national team.”
Monare is living life in the fast lane, but still tries to catch the odd Cosmos game when he’s not bossing the Wits midfield in the Premier League or, better yet, being one of the stand-out players for the Clever Boys against Al Ahly recently in the CAF Champions League.
“It is difficult to follow Cosmos' progress because the games aren’t on TV, but from what I have seen they are a good side,” Monare said of a an outfit that is still in with a chance of making the promotion play-offs.
“I have a lot of respect for Jomo Sono (the Cosmos coach and owner) for the opportunity that he gave me, but I am on the other side now and there is a job to be done.
“I wouldn’t say going back is emotional. It’s more exciting actually. Cosmos have got nothing to lose and that means they are always going to trouble us.”
Gavin Hunt, a man who picked out Monare from a dejected team, rates the player highly, labelling him as the kind of midfielder that would fit like a glove in Europe if time was still on his side.
“I always say in a struggling team there is one or two players that can go places," Hunt said. "I picked out Morgan Gould and Anthony Laffor from a struggling team (also Cosmos) and one went on to play for Bafana Bafana and you know what the other has achieved recently (winning the Champions League with Sundowns). I also picked out Sifiso Hlanti (from AmaZulu)".
“Thabang had the attributes we were looking for, and every time I watched him he impressed me, even against us when they got relegated he was fantastic. It’s a pity that at his age he is only in his second season in the PSL.
“But that is a South African problem, we don’t discover players when they are 14, 15 or 16 and should be in the system. It’s tough to coach them when they are older, but Thabang has that ability to absorb information and I did see that from a distance and thought we could change him and make him better.”
Cosmos get to find out on Tuesday night just how much better Monare has become.