JOHANNESBURG - A small gesture by coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic won over Orlando Pirates’ players before they had even kicked a ball under the Serbian.
“He is a very knowledgeable coach who has been in the game for a long time, especially in the continent which is what made us more comfortable around him,” Buccaneers’ goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane said.
“He knows our culture and has been at the club before. But the one thing that touched us as players is that on the first day he met us, he knew all of us by name. That makes you feel special as a player.”
Sredojevic started his second stint at Pirates with a 1-0 win over Chippa United at Orlando Stadium followed by a 1-1 draw with Baroka FC in Polokwane. Those two matches showed the club is still a work-in-progress. But the positive is that their mind-set has improved from the timid bunch which struggled to pick themselves up in the last campaign to a group whose confidence is growing with each game.
Mabokgwane watched Wayne Sandilands start in goal for the Buccaneers in their first two matches. He doesn’t mind though as he would prefer the club has a fixed No. 1 goalkeeper instead of chopping and changing like they did last year. The effect of those changes saw the Sea Robbers ship 40 goals in the league with a meek defence and a keeper who was changed almost every second game.
“Rotation is never good, not just for a goalkeeper but for any other player,” Sandilands said. “It’s important to have one goalkeeper playing consistently because you take a bit of time to be comfortable with your partners in defence. It’s also important for confidence and for your teammates to be comfortable with you.
"There are a lot of aspects of the game that need to be proper, the communication, relationship and understanding which can only be mastered by playing together consistently. When you have your leader, and a goalkeeper is a leader, changed every second week it’s a problem. It’s important to have the No. 1 goalkeeper and back him.”
Being called up again to play for Bafana is as great today,as it was the first time.The honour of going to war for my nation will never die.
Mabokgwane is prepared to fight to be that No. 1 goalkeeper, as he has done throughout his life. He has always had to prove his worth, competing against some of the best goalkeepers in the country, from Itumeleng Khune and Senzo Meyiwa in the national team set-up to Moeneeb Josephs at Bidvest Wits and Shu-Aib Walters at Mpumalanga Black Aces.
Sredojevic will get a closer look at Mabokgwane in this international break while Sandilands is with Bafana Bafana for the back-to-back 2018 World Cup qualifier games against Cape Verde.
“It’s important to earn the No. 1 jersey,” Mabokgwane said. “Everything I have achieved in my life, I’ve earned. I am working hard to earn the No. 1 jersey. What makes me excited about my career is that nothing was handed to me. I’ve had to fight for everything I have.
"That makes you strong. It grows you as a person because it makes you realise to have something in life, you must work hard for it. That’s been my football journey. I am excited about the challenges ahead of me. I know what I need to do. I have all the experience of how to win your battles.”