Motjeka Madisha is hoping to play a bigger role in the Champions League at Sundowns this season. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix
The respect Motjeka Madisha has for his seniors threatened to derail his progress at Mamelodi Sundowns following his bright start after graduating from the junior ranks.

The 23-year-old defender is not only respectful, but he is also reserved.

He spoke only when spoken to in his early days at Sundowns, which limited how he communicated with his teammates, especially when he had to reprimand them if they "dropped the ball".

“The first thing that I had to work on to grow as a player was communication,” Madisha said. “I wasn’t very vocal towards my teammates. I was kind of quiet. I wasn’t telling them when they were making mistakes. I think that being young played a role in that. I couldn’t bring myself to shout at players who are older than me.

“I had to respect them. But they told me at the start of this season that if I had to shout I should shout. That’s what helped me get over it. This season I have improved a little bit. I am also improving on my positional play. I am not where I would like to be but I am better than I was when I started getting regular game time.”

Madisha is likely to start in central defence on Wednesday at Loftus Versfeld in the Brazilians’ clash with Free State Stars, after filling in at rightback in the absence of Thapelo Morena and Anele Ngcongca due to injuries. Ea Lla Koto have been a surprise package in the Absa Premiership, punching above their weight to become a dark horse in the race that’s led by Sundowns with Kaizer Chiefs, Cape Town City and Orlando Pirates among the title contenders.

“We had a rough journey at first whereby we didn’t do well in the MTN8, the Caf Champions League and the league,” Madisha said.

“We managed to bounce back by consistently collecting maximum points. If you check where we are now, we worked hard to be here. We might not be good starters but once we gain momentum we are strong.”

The Brazilians are driven to reclaim the league trophy they lost to Bidvest Wits last season and the Champions League they lost to Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca.

Madisha and company have set themselves the target of having a good lead between them and the chasing pack by collecting maximum point against Stars, SuperSport United on Saturday and AmaZulu before starting their Champions League campaign next month against either Rayon Sports of Rwanda or Lydia Ludic Burundi Académic FC in the second round, with the winner booking a place in the group stage.

Madisha is in search of a Champions League winners’ medal. He got the gold medal in 2016 by just being at the right place at the right time.

He only played one match, a dead-rubber against Enyimba of Nigeria after Sundowns had already qualified for the knockout stage. This year he wants to play a bigger role. which would make any success in the continent more meaningful because he would have contributed towards it.

“Playing Champions League football was a dream that came true, especially since I played in the continent with the (Under-20) national team,” Madisha said.

“If I get the opportunity to play I will do my level best. It’s one tournament that every ambitious player should want to play in. What I love about the Champions League is the challenge, facing teams that you don’t ordinarily face, who play football differently to what you are used to.

“You are always learning something new and improving as a person and as a player.”

Sunday Independent