Rodney Ramagalela of Highlands Park during the MTN8 2019 Highlands Park media day at Balfour Park Training Grounds, Johannesburg. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - Rodney Ramagalela’s return to Polokwane on Saturday was an emotional one - facing his former team which he left under a cloud of controversy and the match coming weeks after he lost his daughter.

But there was no nerves running through Ramagalela’s veins in Highlands Park’s goalless draw with Polokwane City at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium in the first leg of their MTN8 semi-final.

“I have never been nervous of facing anyone,” Ramagalela said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Polokwane City is like any team in the PSL. I can’t be nervous. It’s not like (Mamelodi) Sundowns or (Orlando) Pirates, Polokwane City, with all due respect, they are still a small team. So, there is no being nervous when it comes to football, especially for RamaG.”

Ramagalela came of the bench to rattle Rise and Shine’s defence with his sheer power and pace. The 30-year-old has the ability to make something out of nothing. He almost did that against Polokwane but their goalkeeper was alert to deny Ramagalela what would have been a huge goal in his homecoming.

“It’s the beautiful game. We have to enjoy it,” Ramagalela said. “It was good for me to be in my former team. I felt at home because they never booed me like they used to do in Venda. I was happy to be here. I am trying to get back to my best, as you know I lost my daughter weeks ago. It hasn’t been easy. But as a footballer I just have to carry myself and keep going.”

There was no nerves running through Rodney Ramagalela’s veins as Highlands Park drew with Polokwane City. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Ramagalela was at logger heads with City’s management when he left the club after signing a pre-contract with Highlands. That decision incensed City so much that they allegedly refused for him to train with the club after the news of the deal broke.

“It’s about professionalism,” Ramagalela said. “I am a professional enough to adapt, to take any situation and live with it. Whether it’s pain or whatever, I will find a way to make something good out of it.”

City and Highlands will have a breather before the return leg on September 17 due to the international break. History will be made that day at Makhulong Stadium with the winner qualifying for the MTN8 final for the first time in the club’s history. It would be an impressive run for the victorious team as these two sides have defied the odds to be where they are.

“It was a different type of game that we played, and it’s going to be a tough one when we go to Makhulong. We just have to use our home advantage and make sure that we score first. We mustn’t let them score. That’s what will make us win the game.”

Ramagalela will have a special fan tuning on for the return leg like he did in the first leg. That fan was left in the dark during SABC and SuperSport’s battle for the purchase of PSL broadcasting rights. Ramagalela’s father, who is blind, couldn’t hear about his son’s exploits during that squabble.

“It means a lot (that the matter has been resolved),” Ramagalela said. “He is someone who doesn’t see. I believe that where he is now, he is happy to hear me playing now. It’s a good thing for us as the Ramagalela.”

Football Reporter