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Siyabonga Nomvethe literally had his hands full on Sunday night. After battling to grasp all of the four trophies he had won at the Premier Soccer League awards dinner, the Moroka Swallows striker finally gave up and put them on the floor, before giving his media interviews.
His message was clear: hard work pays.
A remarkable season in which Nomvethe became the first player in seven years to breach the 20-goal mark in the Absa Premiership has paid him back handsomely, as he was named the overall Footballer of the Season, Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season and, of course, the winner of the Golden Boot.
Despite being punted as outright favourite for these honours months before Sunday’s ceremony, Nomvethe professed himself to being shocked that he had been so richly rewarded.
“I don’t know what to say really; it’s a big surprise for me to win four awards,” the soft-spoken striker said.
“But maybe it should show that, at the age of 34, people can’t say you’re finished. I’m sure this can encourage a lot of youngsters to work harder and never give up. Nothing is impossible in life – but only if you work hard at it.”
Nomvethe has worked so hard that, two years after he played his last game for Bafana Bafana, he finds himself back in the fold and will be expected to help lead the national team to victory in this Sunday’s opening World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia (Royal Bafokeng Stadium, 3pm).
“It’s good to be back (in the national team),” said Nomvethe, who had been given permission to leave the Bafana camp in Rustenburg to attend the awards dinner. “When I last played for Bafana in the World Cup two years ago, I thought I wouldn’t return. I even stated that it would be better for the coach (Pitso Mosimane) to pick youngsters to take the team forward. But the country needs me and I can’t say no. It’s a good thing that I didn’t officially retire from international duty.”
Nomvethe’s fitness has been key to him scaling the heights and achieving the unthinkable. Even two years ago, he forced Carlos Alberto Parreira’s hand and won a place in the World Cup squad with eye-catching performances in practice games leading up to the tournament.
Parreira, though, restricted the veteran striker to cameo appearances as a substitute. But with Bafana firing blanks, there’s no question that Mosimane will send the Swallows man straight into his starting line-up on Sunday.
“I don’t want to put myself under too much pressure but I know, if given a chance, I will perform to the best of my ability. I want to help the country to qualify (for the World Cup). It’s not like I’m out to prove anything.”
Having won the biggest awards on the domestic front for a second time – in 1999/00 while playing for Kaizer Chiefs, Nomvethe was named Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year – the Swallows man is still far from thinking about retirement.
“As long as my body carries me, I won’t stop. I work hard and I never relax. I’m always looking to improve and this is the best advice I can give to youngsters: continue to work hard on and off the football field.”
While individual honours have pleased him, Nomvethe was a tad disappointed that the title eluded him yet again as Swallows lost out to Orlando Pirates – his spell at Chiefs also did not bring him a championship medal.
“We tried our best, but we can do better next season. I know there will be huge expectations after our performance this season, but we can do even better,” he said.
And what will he do with his financial windfall – a cool R600 000, to be exact – from the awards? “Well… that will have to go to my wife and kids, and we’ll give some to my mom,” Nomvethe chuckled. – The Star