JOHANNESBURG – Thabo Matlaba has grand ambitions with Black Leopards, who have raised eyebrows with their experienced news signings. And it’s this experience that has Matlaba believing Leopards can achieve something special this season.
“Our aim is to finish in the top four (of the PSL). We don’t want to see ourselves down there. That’s our aim this season,” Matlaba said.
Leopards started their season with a loss to Polokwane City in the Limpopo derby at Thohoyandou Stadium on Sunday. However, Matlaba and the other new faces got to experience what makes Leopards special - playing in front of the best home support in the country.
“I am settling in very well here because I am from Polokwane,” Matlaba said.
“I didn’t have to make a major adjustment. I am not seeing anything wrong by coming this side. I am not struggling with anything. It’s very nice to be playing in front of such crowds. You feel comfortable when you have the ball. We hear them backing you and those whistles. But we disappointed them by starting the season with a loss.”
Matlaba and company will look to make up for that when they take on Kaizer Chiefs at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
Amakhosi are a familiar foe for Matlaba, who faced Chiefs during his time at Orlando Pirates.
His exit, however, was controversial after he was sent on loan to Chippa United in July last year. Matlaba refused and spent the better part of last season in the stands. He was finally released by the club at the end of his contract in June last year.
Pirates wanted to keep Matlaba but the versatile player refused to take a pay cut, which led to him joining Leopards.
“I am motivated,” Matlaba said of his new chapter. “We’ve got a group of good players in this team, they are playing very good football. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t win against Polokwane City, it’s just a pity that we didn’t convert those chances. We will learn from this and improve.”
Matlaba was given the captain's armband against Rise and Shine. It was given to him on a temporary basis but he wouldn’t mind wearing it consistently - especially against Chiefs, who started their season with a dramatic 3-2 win over Highlands Park.
“I would really appreciate the responsibility because I am not a person who runs away from responsibility,” Matlaba said.
“I like taking responsibility. This team needs people like us, experienced players to push the other guys forward.”