CAPE TOWN – Every coach has a maxim he drums into the players under his command.
For Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy, the adage is: “I want players who leave everything on the pitch.”
In 22-year-old dynamo Thabo Nodada, McCarthy most certainly has a central midfielder who covers every blade of grass and “leaves everything on the pitch”.
Nodada has been in supreme form for City. He was named Man of the Match in the Cape club’s last two wins – against Polokwane City and Ajax Cape Town – and his tireless, unselfish endeavour has been the bedrock upon which the team has depended.
In fact, so impressive have been his industrious, combative performances that he has already been showered with the complimentary moniker of “Kante” – a reference to brilliant France and Chelsea central midfielder N’Golo Kante.
Such a comparison alone is an indication of just how impressive Nodada has been for City.
Born in Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal, Nodada played for his local community team, Ixopo United, at junior level before leaving for Joburg in 2009, determined to make it as a professional footballer.
He spent two years at Sandton City and then joined Mpumalanga Black Aces’ development academy in 2012.
After three seasons with the Aces Under-19 squad, he was promoted to the Reserve Team for the inception of the Multichoice Diski Challenge in 2014.
The following year, though, the big breakthrough came when Muhsin Ertugral promoted the midfielder to Aces’ first squad, where he went on to make 11 starts, pick up two Man-of-the-Match awards, and score two goals that season.
Of course after that, when the Mpumalanga club sold their franchise to John Comitis, who relocated the side to the Cape to establish City, Nodada was one of the players who arrived in the Mother City as part of the deal.
Initially, though, things didn’t go according to plan. “I got injured twice last season,” said Nodada. “I tore ligaments during pre-season and was injured again just after the December break.
“It also took time to adjust to Cape Town, and especially being away from my family didn’t make it any easier.
“But the amount of faith coach (McCarthy) has shown in me since his arrival has been my inspiration.
“Besides his new job as City coach, what he has achieved as a footballer is everything a footballer dreams of. I’ve enjoyed having him as my coach, and I’m looking to replicate his success.”
For Nodada, like every squad member at City, the individual is secondary; the team means everything.
So, even though he has been named as the best player in the last two weeks, including the Cape derby, the credit, as always, goes to the team as a whole.
“The derby win was about the three points and confidence going into the MTN8 final (on October 14),” said Nodada.
“It also means that the city is blue, and our supporters will have bragging rights to owning Cape Town.
“I’m happy with the awards I’ve received, and even more so because in those games, the team was able to come back strong after two defeats.
“Everybody worked extremely hard to get those results, and the real MVPs are my teammates.
“We have an amazing bond as a team. We stick it out and fight for one another; we all have a common goal, and that is the success of the team.
“Everybody always gives of their best to see the team succeed.”
City’s next focus is the MTN8 final against SuperSport United at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban – and Nodada has a special reason for wanting to come away with victory.
“I’m excited to be playing in Durban, my home province,” he said.
“I think every single member of the City family is gearing for the final and we, as players, want to do our best to make sure that we win it on the 14th.”