JOHANNESBURG - The discerning football fan will agree that Jabulani Maluleke is arguably the most consistent player in the Absa Premiership. At 36 and in his 13th year in the elite league, the Polokwane City captain continues to be one of the most brilliant playmakers on the local fields.
Were he playing for one of the more glamorous sides, the Soweto-man would be one of the country’s most celebrated players - such is the quality of his game. Though he is slight of build, Maluleke has an incredible engine that sees him perform the role of fetcher, carrier and distributor for Rise and Shine with aplomb. As if that is not enough, he is also their set-piece specialist.
Coach Josef Vukusic and the Polokwane faithful will once again look to him for their delight tomorrow when they host neighbours Baroka FC in the Polokwane derby at the Peter Mokaba Stadium. It is a match Polokwane need to win, given their poor start to the season that sees them pointless after two outings. A man of high standards, Maluleke is eager to help his team get off the mark.
“We’ve really had a bad start and it we’re all disappointed by it,” he said. “We have essentially lost six points at home and that cannot be good for our prospects for the season. But right now it is not time to wallow in the past, but to rather lift ourselves up and bring back the club’s pride. We cannot take things as lightly as I felt we did in the first two matches. Those losses were a wake up call and we have to show against Baroka that we mean business.”
Easier said than done though, especially with the history of this derby of the Limpopo capital seeming to suggest victory is but a pipedream. In their four league clashes since Baroka’s promotion to the elite league, the two teams have always played out stalemates. Maluleke would love to see that change.
“We should have beaten them last season after we took the lead but we lost concentration late and we allowed them to score a free-kick in the last minute. We cannot afford to make those kind of mistakes on Saturday if we want to win," he said.'
“It won’t be easy against Baroka because they got a point against Chiefs and will be very confident. But we need this win more and I will do my best to ensure we deliver. I need to help the team move up the table and do well this season.”
At 36, is he nursing thoughts of retirement. “I still have two years on my contract. I am fully fit, I am enjoying my game and I have full support from my club and my parents and family motivate me, so retirement is not on my mind. All I am thinking of is to help the club do well.”
Perhaps that attitude of considering the club’s goals first ahead of individual glory has helped Maluleke stand the test of time.