JOHANNESBURG – With many supporters bemoaning his exclusion from Bafana Bafana’s Africa Cup of Nations squad, Thapelo Morena says he’ll continue to churn out his best for his club without having to prove a point to the national selectors.
The Mamelodi Sundowns wing-back had a polished performance for his side last season, helping them to a record ninth Premiership title and the semi-finals of the Caf Champions League.
But he didn’t even make the provisional 30-man national squad.
“Everyone can say their own opinion,” said Morena, speaking at Sundowns’ pre-season camp at Ingwenyama Sports Resort in Nelspruit yesterday.
“But due to what I’ve done on the field of play, and with all respect to other players, it was touching when I read what the people said and fortunately God knows what he’s planning for me.”
Without Morena, Bafana Bafana had a roller-coaster Afcon campaign in Egypt. They won only one match in the group stage, against Namibia, while losing to Ivory Coast and Morocco.
They made the knockout stage as one of the four best third-placed finishers, then pulled a rabbit out of the hat by beating hosts Egypt 1-0 in the round of 16.
However, their campaign came to an end in the quarter-finals as Nigeria beat them 2-1, notably following a poor performance by wing-back Thamsanqa Mkhize.
“I am not doing this for anyone but for myself. I want to work more than last season,” Morena said.
“I have a lot of support and I don’t take things to my head, even though I’ve had a very good game. I don’t want to say I’ve done well and I’ll take the next game for granted but I am willing to learn and improve.”
Morena joined Sundowns from Bloemfontein Celtic two seasons ago as a winger and Downs coach Pitso Mosimane converted him into a complete wing-back.
But in the team’s shortcomings of having a misfiring Jeremy Brockie, who was the team’s target man, Mosimane sparingly used Morena as a false No 9.
While many would arguably look out of position, the 25-year-old Randfontein-born footballer didn’t sulk about the interchanging of roles and took on the responsibility.
“It comes very easy for me because when I started at Bloemfontein Celtic, I started as a winger.
“Then coach Ernst Middendorp took me from a striker to a right-back.
“So it’s something that I’ve been doing for a long time. But for now, due to tactics and everything, I have to learn a little bit more and see things differently,” Morena said.
Despite being a fan favourite for his impressive exploits on the field of play, Morena admits there are areas of his game that he needs to improve.
“I need to improve in the last third. I need to work on my crossing,” he said.@Mihlalibaleka