Motjeka Madisha has matured into a solid defender after he was previously told he won't make it in the senior ranks. Picture: BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - After scoring his first goal for Mamelodi Sundowns’ this past weekend against Free State Stars, Motjeka Madisha rushed to the sidelines to celebrate his strike with his coaches.

It was the triumvirate of Manqoba Mnqithi, Rhulani Mokwena and Pitso Mosimane, who he embraced – each having played a major role in getting him to this level.

There was a time when Madisha was considered not good enough to don the Sundowns’ jersey. When he was 17, the two Spanish coaches at the academy had described his style of play as being primitive.

But Mokwena, whom Madisha hugged after netting what turned out to be Sundowns’ only goal in that encounter, insisted on working with the player, arguing that he would get Madisha to the level they all expected him to reach.

“It was not easy though,” the Mamelodi Sundowns assitant coach said, reflecting on the struggle to keep Madisha at the junior ranks at the time.

“I had to fight to keep him at junior structures. The other two Spanish coaches we had at the club didn’t like the way that he played, arguing that he could not create attacking moves from the back and help his side to score goals with his style of play defence.

“He has evolved now,” Mokwena adds.

“Madisha is one of the best defenders that I’ve ever worked with.

“One of his standout qualities is that he listens, his very humble and is always eager to learn. I believe what we’ve witnessed in his last four starts is only the beginning of what is most likely to come out from the player.

“He’s got a lot to offer. ”

Against SuperSport United, where Sundowns handed their opponents a 5-0 hammering last week, the former Under-20 skipper proved that he was not a player to be walked all over by other senior players from opposing sides.

He handled the presence of Kingston Nkhatha and the ever roaming Jeremy Brockie with sheer class, giving them no breathing space at the back.

His brilliance in reading the game in that match led to Nkhatha being frustrated to a point where he stepped on the player, an incident which led to an intense confrontation between the two.

“He (Nkhatha) stepped on me,” Madisha recalled. "Nkhatha thought I was going to be intimidated by him. He had this idea I would hold back just because he’s an (older) and more experienced player than I am. I wasn’t going to take that. I confronted him, and that’s when the referee decided to step in. ”

But Madisha wasn’t the outspoken type when he first arrived at the club.

That personality streak is a quality he had to develop as he worked his way up through the development ranks.

Mosimane, who gave him a pat on the head after the lad from Limpopo scored that goal, also played a significant role in his growth.

He told the player that the only time he was ever going to get a chance to play for the first XI, was in the MultiChoice Diski Challenge as a reserve.

Madisha learnt from that experience, while also coming out of his shell.

On Wednesday, Sundowns will lock horns with Matsatsantsa a Pitori in their second round fixture of the Absa Premiership at Lucas Moripe Stadium (Kick-off 7.30pm) and Mokwena said he was anticipating a difficult encounter against their rivals, compared to the first round performance they gave the previous week.

“Let’s be honest, everybody wants to beat Sundowns,” Mokwena said. “But our focus is on us doing our very best to catch up with other teams who are challenging for the league title. We are the defending champs and the last few games have been good in terms of getting ourselves back to winning more of our games.

"But then again, I believe SuperSport will come into this encounter better prepared than they were in the first. We expect a very difficult match against them but I believe that we’ll do well.”

And Madisha will want to be as solid as he was in the first clash.

The Star