Thabo Qalinge of Orlando Pirates holds off Siyabonga Dube of Golden Arrows on Saturday. Photo: Aubrey Kgakatsi/BackpagePix

DURBAN – Orlando Pirates midfielder Thabo “Section 10” Qalinge understands the burden that comes with wearing jersey No 15 at the Buccaneers.

But he has no intention of putting himself under pressure to emulate the greats that have worn this number before.

Qalinge (26) is in red-hot form for Pirates, having won back-to-back man of the match awards for the club.

This past weekend he scored a crucial winner against Lamontville Golden Arrows in the last 16 of the Telkom Knockout at Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu.

Qalinge also won the man of the match award against Kaizer Chiefs in the Soweto Derby.

Speaking with the media after the Arrows game, he mentioned that he wants to write his own chapter at Pirates.

“The number doesn’t play football. I can wear number two and three, but at the end of the day, it is me who is playing. It is not the jersey number.

“It is important to the team and to me as well, but it doesn’t play football. I just have to go out there in the field of play and perform and forget about the number,” Qalinge explained.

Jersey No 15 was made famous by players like Jerry “The Legs of Thunder” Sikhosana, Benedict “Tso” Vilakazi and Andile “Gattuso” Jali.

“It will be nice for me to leave my mark at Pirates because I’m also from Soweto and the team is also from Soweto. It will be nice to win things with the team and achieve big things,” Qalinge said.

Pirates haven’t won big things in a while. The last time they lifted a trophy was back in 2014 with the Nedbank Cup against Bidvest Wits at Moses Mabhida Stadium. They didn’t even reach the top eight in the league last season.

“Orlando Pirates is a very big team and people are always expecting us to win things. Big teams win things,” Qalinge said.

“It hasn’t been easy for us. You know how it is there in the street (from the supporters). We are trying by all means to stay together as the team and be united because if we are apart, then we won’t win anything.”

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter ignored Qalinge in the latest squad despite his good form at Pirates, but the Soweto-born midfielder is not bothered by the snub.

“I’m taking each game as it comes. A Bafana Bafana call-up will happen when it happens. At the moment, my focus is at Orlando Pirates. I want to improve my game.

Thabo Qalinge says he respects Stuart Baxter’s decision to leave him out of the Bafana Bafana squad. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

“We respect the decision of the coach (Baxter). Whatever decision that has been taken, we have to accept it and move on and look to play and prove ourselves,” Qalinge explained.

On Wednesday, Pirates will welcome Sundowns at Orlando Stadium in an Absa Premiership encounter at 7.30pm.

Last season, Sundowns hammered Pirates 6-0 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

“We are not going there to take revenge on Sundowns. We are just going there to play our normal game and get maximum points.

“It is still too early to say that this game can determine our fate in the league race. This will be our 10th game. We are just going there to fight for the team and get three points,” Qalinge said.

Pirates are siting in third position on the log and have attained 14 points after nine league outings.

“I want to continue to win these man of the match awards. Once you win one, you get encouraged to win another one. I want to try and pick up where I left out (when they face Sundowns). Since the season started, I haven’t been injured. For me, that’s the positive,” Qalinge concluded.

 

IOL Sport