JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates’ exciting forward Justin Shonga is confident that with time he will break Collins Mbesuma’s impressive scoring record of 25 goals in the league and 35 in all competitions.
Siyabonga Nomvethe is the closest anyone came to challenging Mbesuma. “Bhele” finished with 20 goals in the league in the 2011/12 season, five shy of the Zambian.
Now that Shonga has found his groove, stretching his goals tally to three with a brace against Chippa United on Sunday, he believes that with time he will break his countryman’s record.
“Mbesuma played for both clubs, Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates, he has been telling me what it takes to succeed here and what I am supposed to do,” Shonga said. “He always encourages me and sends me text messages after the game.
“No one has beaten his scoring tally. I will do it with time because it takes time for one to settle down and understand the dynamics of where you are playing. You can’t just come and hit the ground running. It will take time and with hard work; I can do it.
“I really respect his hard work and legacy.”
Shonga’s immediate task is to lead the Buccaneers to a win over arch-rivals Amakhosi in the Soweto Derby on Saturday at FNB Stadium.
For the first time in a long time more than pride is at stake in this big match. It could determine which team will chase Mamelodi Sundowns in the title race. The winners will sit in second position regardless of how Sundowns performs against AmaZulu the day before, which could set up a tight finish to the league that’s the Brazilians’ to lose.
Shonga is in contact with a Zambian who was part of a dramatic league finish that saw Pirates pip Ajax Cape Town for the title they had one hand on before the last day of the league.
Isaac Chansa scored with six minutes to go at Orlando Stadium to give the Buccaneers the 2010/11 title, ending an eight-year wait.
“I spoke to Isaac when we were in the national team camp,” Shonga said “He encouraged me to do my best because this is a good place that can help me take my football to the next level. He said I should enjoy my football because I will fit in well here with the way I play football.
“I also spoke to coach Perry Mutapa (another Zambian who played for Pirates), who was here last month. He told me about his time here and what it takes for one to play for this big club. His words inspired me. It is now up to me.”
Shonga will be making his debut in a derby that captures the country’s imagination. He only watched on TV Zambia’s biggest rivalry - the Kitwe Derby between Power Dynamos and Nkana.
“I have always supported Zesco United because my father used to play for Zesco,” Shonga said. “I never played in the big derby in Zambia because I never represented those teams.
“That’s why I am looking forward to playing in this one. I am excited about what’s going to come and being a part of it. I have watched it growing up in Zambia. This is one of the biggest derbies on the continent. We will have to work hard and push. Both teams need to win.”@NJABULON