Industrious Cape Town City midfielder Thabo Nodada has blossomed since the arrival of Benni McCarthy as coach.
The Cape side takes on Baroka FC in the opening round of the Telkom Knockout Cup at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane this afternoon (3.30pm kickoff), and McCarthy is looking for another committed, determined effort from the in-form Nodada.
The Durban-born player struggled last year after making the trip down to the Mother City as part of the Mpumalanga Black Aces contingent.
When John Comitis purchased the Aces franchise, and relocated the club and the players to the Cape, Nodada was already battling injury.
Eric Tinkler was in charge of City - Nodada was on the comeback trail after injury, but never saw much game-time, especially with the team in such good form.
This season, though, McCarthy has quickly warmed to the tireless Nodada.
It’s no secret the City coach demands fighting spirit from his players, something he gets week after week from the 22-year-old midfielder.
For example, in the MTN8 final two weeks ago, Nodada covered an astonishing 15.6 kilometres during the game.
Now, as Baroka loom in the opening round of this event, and with City the defending champions, Nodada admitted the influence McCarthy has had on his rapid emergence this season.
“I’m happy with the progress in my career,” said Nodada. “With this team if you put in the work, you get a chance. It is not about age. The coaches look at all the players the same way.
“With coach Benni, I listen to all the pointers he gives and take them seriously. I’m continuing to work hard in every game and every training session.”
Nodada has already been nicknamed “Kante” by his teammates and the City fans.
It’s a reference to French midfielder N’Golo Kante, who was the fulcrum of title-winning teams at Leicester City and Chelsea.
A workaholic footballer, who covers every blade of grass, Kante’s stamina and ability are admired worldwide.
“It’s obviously a big motivation,” said Nodada. “He (Kante) has done wonders in his career, so just to be compared to him is an honour – and it also shows that my hard work on the field is being appreciated.”
Baroka, though, will be tough today. They are among the in-form teams at the moment, and are the current PSL log leaders.
They are especially difficult to break down at home. But City are confident that, despite three successive defeats, they can turn things around today.
“There is always pressure, in every game, but us being the defending champions of this competition, is added motivation for us to do well,” said Nodada.