Can Ndumiso Mabena turn on the magic against Orlando Pirates?
JOHANNESBURG - Ndumiso Mabena is humbled by being Bloemfontein Celtic’s main man in the last few seasons and emphasises that this status comes with maturity and the support he gets within the team.
Being on the wrong side of 30 has often been ridiculed in the Premier Soccer League.
But having someone such as Mabena as a leader appears to be more than a blessing for Celtic who’ve weathered many storms in the last few seasons.
Amid their financial woes, reports were rife that the club was for sale or players hadn’t been paid. But in recent months, there’s been some sort of calm – proved by the team's eye-catching performances after reaching successive finals.
Many of the players have looked to captain Mabena and given thanks.
The 33-year-old, though, hasn’t only been the mouthpiece of the coaches on and off the field.
He’s also led by example – dragging his team to the finish line when need be. Such that when Celtic finished eighth on the standings last season and reached the final of the Nedbank Cup, Mabena was involved in 16 goals – scoring 11 and assisting five.
Good morning to the whole nation of green and white 💚⚪💪![CDATA]>💪 lets start our Celebration already today🏆![CDATA]>🏅![CDATA]>🏆![CDATA]>🏅— Bloemfontein Celtic (@Bloem_Celtic) December 11, 2020
John "VULI GATE" Maduka
Ndumiso "PLANE ILENDILE" Mabena#MTN8Final#DSTVPREMIERSHIP#twizza #Itau#Lovesiwelele 💚⚪#SiweleleSummerSele 🧡 pic.twitter.com/LMUxFZTwKh
However, their eight-year wait for silverware continued after losing the Nedbank Cup final to Mamelodi Sundowns. But three months later, Mabena has captained Phunya
Sele Sele to the MTN8 final, where they’ll meet Orlando Pirates at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban tomorrow (6pm kick-off).
“With the role that I’ve been given in the team, it gives me confidence as well,” Mabena said.
“But like I’ve said, I’ve been in the game for a while now. And the experience that I’ve gained from the previous teams I’ve brought here.”
He added: “The confidence that the current coaches give me at the training ground, I think it helps a lot. To be around the senior players and youngsters, who are willing to learn and listen, that has also helped a lot in my game.”
Mabena was part of Pirates’ marquee squad that completed a double treble in the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 seasons.
But with Celtic having last won the MTN8 while it was still called the SAA Supa 8 in 2005, before their last trophy in 2012, the Telkom Knockout, Mabena has a chance to entrench his name in the club’s history books if they defeat Pirates. However he’s not about individual success.
“As a team, we want to make history. As the captain of the team, I’d be happy to be one of those that has left a mark in the green and white colours of Bloemfontein Celtic. I think with all due respect, it would be a blessing to lift a trophy with the club,” Mabena said.
Mabena and company have enjoyed more recent appearances in cup finals than Pirates, who last had one in 2018, but their respective league outings have been in stark contrast this season.
Celtic have won one game, drawn one and lost three, while Pirates have won two and drawn four.
“We want it,” Mabena said. “Come Saturday, the team that wins it will be the one that wants it more. But from training, there’s confidence and a fighting spirit.
“Everybody wants to be part of it. So, we are just going all out. We want to make history.”