Erick Mathoho during the Kaizer Chiefs training session on Thursday. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – The reborn Eric Mathoho credits his mental strength for his ability to bounce back stronger from his injury to become a vital cog in the Kaizer Chiefs armoury.

The centreback has not only solidified the club’s defence, but he has also pitched in with goals in Chiefs’ bright start to the 2019/20 season. Mathoho will look to add to his two goals when Amakhosi host Polokwane City at FNB Stadium on Saturday.

This will be a clash between two of the best teams in the league so far. While Chiefs are driven to end a four-year barren run, Rise and Shine have had a smooth transition from Jozef Vukusic to Zlatko Krmpotic’s era.

The four games Mathoho has played this season is the same number of games he played last season due to an ankle and a groin injury.

“It’s very hard sometimes to come back from an injury stronger,” Mathoho said. “It’s very difficult. But I told myself that I have to come back stronger from the injury. It wasn’t easy but I worked hard to be back. I told myself that I have to come back as the Tower that people knew.

I didn’t do much physically, I let that take care of itself. I was pushing myself mentally. I had to focus on my game and improve where I lacked. That’s why I came back stronger.”

How did Mathoho beat the mental demons that could have held him back when he made a tackle?

“Mental strength is important when it comes to recovering from an injury because the moment you keep thinking that I’ll get injured again, I shouldn’t make certain tackles, that’s when you will be injured.”

While Mathoho nursed his injury, Chiefs dealt with another barren run which saw the club start the season with Giovanni Solinas at the helm and end with Ernst Middendorp who is tasked with bringing back the glory days. He couldn’t do it last season with an injury list that included Itumeleng Khune, Happy Mashiane and Lebogang Manyama. With a full strength team, and a pre-season, Middendorp has led Amakhosi to an unbeaten start.

“The way we have been training and the way everyone is fighting is the reason why we have been winning and we find ourselves in this position,” Mathoho said. “This season, we are a team. We support one another.”

Eric Mathoho and teammates training at the Kaizer Chiefs Village yesterday. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu BackpagePix
Eric Mathoho and teammates training at the Kaizer Chiefs Village yesterday. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu BackpagePix

Chiefs’ challenge will be to continue with their good run to ensure they end the season at No.1. The international break stalled their momentum and the stop-start nature of their season without MTN8 football brings unnecessary pauses for Chiefs.

“We shouldn’t get carried away,” Mathoho said. “We can’t say that now that we’re No. 1, we have to relax. No! There’s still a long way to go. We have to work even harder and keep that momentum until the end of the season.

We can’t say that now we’re doing well, this is just the start. It will take more than this to win the PSL.”

IOL Sport

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