JOHANNESBURG – Leonardo Castro broke his silence yesterday about a frustrating last couple of months at Mamelodi Sundowns before joining rivals Kaizer Chiefs in January.
The Colombian striker has been hailed as one of Amakhosi’s marquee signings alongside midfielder Siphelele Ntshangase as the Glamour Boys attempt to overtake Absa Premiership log leaders Sundowns in the title chase.
“I felt like I was losing my profile, my confidence, in those last few weeks at Sundowns,” said Castro ahead of Chiefs’ home fixture against Bloemfontein Celtic tomorrow (8.15pm kick-off). Now I feel better and I am working hard every day to improve my profile again. The coach and my teammates have given me the confidence to show my strength again and I want to make the Chiefs family proud. The facilities here are also much better and will help me improve as a player. I think it all depends on the player, whether they want to work a little bit more.”
The 28-year-old from Bogota spent a little over two seasons at Chloorkop before swapping the yellow jersey for the black and gold of Chiefs. He scored 15 goals in 35 matches and helped them clinch the Premier Soccer League championship in 2016 as well as the Caf Champions League that same year.
Castro scored on debut for Chiefs last month, but hasn’t found the back of the net since, although his work rate is evident in the matches he has played since joining.
“It felt amazing,” he said of his first goal for the club. “I had lost that feeling because it had been a while. I even helped the team to win that game, with one player less (Joseph Molangoane was sent off before Castro came off the bench to score the winner). It was a big thing for us because Baroka always beat Chiefs.”
Amakhosi coach Steve Komphela recently said Castro was still some way off getting his full fitness back, hence the striker not being able to play the full 90 minutes at his new club. But Castro challenged Komphela to leave him on the pitch a little longer.
“Maybe I can get two or three (goals),” he said confidently. “I am getting better with my fitness. I feel like I want to finish the game - most of the opportunities seem to come in the last 10 minutes. If I stay longer, I can score. But the team is winning and I am happy.”
Asked whether he feels under pressure to deliver quickly given that Chiefs are five points behind Sundowns with nine matches to go, Castro argued that the demands from South African fans pales in comparison to what he was used to back home.
“When you play for big teams you are always under pressure. For me, pressure is in South America or Europe. You can’t go out in the streets because people are crazy, they are mad (if results are not positive). That’s pressure. Here, I don’t feel like I am under pressure. The people here are nice.
“We obviously understand that the club hasn’t won anything for two years and the fans are hungry for trophies.
“I also want to be a champion, which is why I came here. I understand the hunger; that is why I am working hard and hungry to win trophies. We have nine games left and we have to win every single game - even the Nedbank Cup. We want to make everyone in the (Chiefs) family happy.”