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For a player with a bad boy image, SuperSport United recruit Clifford Mulenga ought to be hell-bent on undoing the deeds that damaged his reputation.
However, the Zambian star, whose superb talent has been overshadowed by controversy, says he is not about to embark on a campaign to prove his detractors wrong now that SuperSport has given him a new lease of life. All the 24-year-old left footed genius wants is to play football and reach greater levels.
“Whether I play well or bad, people will always consider me to be a bad boy.
“That bad boy image will always follow me. I am not going out there to prove anyone wrong or right,” said Mulenga.
“I want to play football, score goals and move to Europe. Proving anyone wrong or right is not my style.
“I know where I have gone wrong and right. I have messed up on few occasions. I am human. I have to learn from that. If in the next three years I will be doing the same, then I have to quit the game.
“I know what’s happening and I am working very hard on it.”
Mulenga has often dished out sublime displays on the pitch but it has been his off field antics that grabbed the headlines.
Probably his worst blunder happened earlier this year when he was kicked out of the Zambian national team camp at the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
”We (Mulenga and five teammates) sneaked out of camp and went out on a drinking spree. We went to a club and the team manager met us there and I think he reported to the coach. Unfortunately they said I didn’t apologise which is not true,” said the former AmaTuks player.
“The only thing the coach said to me is that he had found out that I and other guys had gone out and I was the bad influence among the group, so he decided that I should leave the team. That’s how I got kicked out.
“I didn’t want to cause a scene about it so I packed my bags and left,” said the wingman from the honey rich town of Kabompo.
The man crowned 2007 Caf Young Player of the Year did not take much of a knock after his unceremonious sacking from camp.
“I felt sorry for my parents. It was a bit more embarrassing for them than it was for me. I haven’t been in the best of books with the coach and some people at the national team,” said the former Bloemfontein Celtic midfielder, who believes his departure might have inspired Zambia to Afcon glory.
“Maybe my leaving the team was a blessing in disguise for the team. Had I been there, maybe there would have been a lot of infightings, we would not have won the championship.”
Zambia coach Herve Renard has declared that Mulenga will not play for the African Champions as long as he is at the helm, but the talented midfielder is hoping the Frenchman can forgive him one day.
Mulenga is keen to use the faith SuperSport showed in him to get his once promising career on the path.
“The progress I have made in my career is not at all satisfactory. A lot was expected of me after I won the CAF Young player award so I let myself and a lot of people down, because talent alone is not enough. I am learning.”
The man who was seen as the heir to the great Kalusha Byalwa’s throne as Zambia’s top footballer wants to surpass the benchmark set by Siyabonga Nomvete with 21 goals last season.
“If possible I want to go two or three better than what Nomvete did. With the team like SuperSport and the type of players we have, I think I can do it. I will work hard and produce my best,” said Mulenga.
”You will never hear about me going AWOL or fighting at a nightclub. I will drink at home.” – Pretoria News