JOHANNESBURG - Anele Ngcongca is adamant that Mamelodi Sundowns will win the 2017/18 Absa Premiership title in the next two rounds, an achievement that would break his late brother’s heart but make him proud at the same time.
Ngcongca’s family played a big role in the 30-year-old returning to South Africa to play in the Premier division for the first time in his career after a nine-year stint in Europe playing for Genk in Belgium and Troyes in France.
And his late brother, Kholekile, wanted him to play for Orlando Pirates and win the league with them. In a cruel twist of fate for Kholekile, his brother is part of a Sundowns’ team that could deny the Buccaneers the championship.
The Brazilians are three points ahead of Pirates with a game in hand. That game in hand will be played on Tuesday night at Loftus Versfeld against Golden Arrows.
“When I came to South Africa I chose Sundowns because I knew that it’s a team that will give me what I want, which is the league and trophies,” Ngcongca said.
“The quality that we have is unbelievable. There are players who are sitting in the stands who would do what we are doing if given a chance. That keeps you on your toes.
“Winning the league would be something special for my late brother. He wanted to see me win the league in South Africa, but not with the current team that I am playing for.
"He wanted me to win the league with Pirates. It’s a pity for him that I am on the yellow side but I know that he would be proud of me nonetheless.”
Championship success with the Brazilians will not be something new for Ngcongca, who had a splendid time of it in Belgium. But it will be pretty special.
“I won almost everything on offer in Belgium, to win the league in my country would be special.”
The former Bafana Bafana rightback already knows who he will give his winner’s medal to, should Sundowns go all the way and win a record eighth league title in the Premier Soccer League-era.
“This one would definitely go to my mom," Ngcongca said. "I came back because my mom wasn’t well. I had to do it for her. I wanted to be closer to her. If you remember, I had a two-year option left with Genk which would have seen me there for 11 years. But with the problems I had with the coach (Peter Maes), being loaned out to Troyes and my mom in hospital - it was a no-brainer to come back."
"I had a good relationship with coach Pitso (Mosimane) from Bafana Bafana. I spoke with so many teams in South Africa, including Kaizer Chiefs, but I chose Sundowns. I looked at the quality Sundowns has and what Chiefs had, and I am not undermining any players, but Sundowns have a stronger squad.”
That strong squad and a knee injury has kept Ngcongca out of action for the better part of his stay at Sundowns since joining them in 2016. He completed only his sixth 90 minutes in the Absa Premiership this season in the 2-0 win over Bidvest Wits on Saturday. Mosimane had high praises for Ngcongca, saying that he was his Man-of-the-Match.
“It’s an honour to hear those words from the coach. He spoke to me and said that I played a top game. But I can tell you that wasn’t one of my best performances. I am just happy because I have had so many ups and downs due to injuries and Thapelo (Morena) doing well. I know my standard and what I can do when I am at my best.
"I want to go back to the standard I set for myself when I played against Sporting (Lisbon) and Chelsea in the Uefa Champions League. Those are some of the best games I have played in my life. I want to do something similar here at Sundowns. It’s encouraging to hear such words from the coach, it makes me want to work harder. He always tells us that you must always be ready.”
The Brazilians have to be ready for a tough finish in what is turning out to be an exciting contest between them and Pirates. Both teams have displayed great character and fighting spirit to keep each other on their toes. But Ngcongca is confident Sundowns will wrap up the league soon.
“We have to try and stay focused. Pirates are chasing us. But we’ve got experience in the team. We’ve got guys like Keke (Hlompho Kekana) who can handle the heat. I think that the league will be sealed in the next two rounds."
"If we win against Arrows and Maritzburg (United), we will be champions. I don’t think that Pirates will catch us or keep up with us. We want to win it early so that we can focus on the Nedbank Cup (final) and the Champions League. The schedule is tough. The sooner we win it, the better.”