JOHANNESBURG – Teboho Mokoena could have had this moment a long time ago had things worked out differently at Free State Stars before he joined Harmony Academy.
The SuperSport United midfielder will play in his hometown of Bethlehem for the first time since turning professional in the Tshwane side’s Absa Premiership clash with Ea Lla Koto at Goble Park tonight.
“I joined the Free State Stars development team after leaving (amateur side) Juveniles FC,” Mokoena said.
“I spent just one season at Free State Stars’ development before I left for Harmony and then SuperSport.
“I am not a person who likes to dwell too much on the past. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I went on the journey that I took because that’s how I was destined to get here.
“It feels special that I will be playing at home for the first time as a professional footballer. I am excited about it. I know that my family will be there to support me. It’s such moments that make everything I went through special because they mean even more because of how much I worked to be here.”
Mokoena could have played in his hometown for the first time as an African champion had Matsatsantsa a Pitori not lost to TP Mazembe in the recent final of the Caf Confederation Cup.
That loss hit SuperSport hard, especially after the long journey it took them to reach a final of a continental competition for the first time in the club’s history.
Coach Eric Tinkler called out underperforming players after their 1-1 draw with Cape Town City on Sunday as the effects of that loss continue.
Tinkler challenged his players to get maximum points from their remaining matches in 2017, starting with tonight’s clash with Stars followed by trips to Baroka FC and Bloemfontein Celtic.
“Losing in the final hurt us a lot,” Mokoena said.
“We haven’t played as well as we would have liked after that loss. We haven’t been that dominant, which is why we haven’t scored much.
“It’s not easy to get over such a disappointment. We were that close to making history for ourselves and the club. It knocked our confidence a bit, which is why we haven’t been ourselves.
“But there is no time to cry over that defeat. We need to get it off our system and start winning games. We have been working on our finishing, which is what let us down in our last two matches.”
SuperSport trail log leaders and cross-town rivals Mamelodi Sundowns by seven points but United have three games in hand. A win for Matsatsantsa tonight would see them jump from 11th place to seventh.
But it won’t be easy as Stars coach Luc Eymael expects a positive response from his players after their 3-0 loss to Bloemfontein Celtic on Sunday in the Free State derby.
“We have set the target of challenging for the league this season,” Mokoena said.
“We are an ambitious bunch. We have done well in cup competitions. We reached the final of every cup competition we took part in this year, and we won two of those finals (the Nedbank Cup in May and Telkom Knockout in October).
“We need to take that form, character and fighting spirit into the league because this is the ultimate prize in domestic football. We have what it takes to win it.”