JOHANNESBURG - It is not every day that a coach publicly announces a player is the best in a certain position, in spite of the fact that that very same player barely makes the matchday squad.
But that's what happened recently when Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane labelled Asavela Mbekile as the best right-back in the country.
This came as a shock to some members of the football community, considering that the versatile player, he can play defensive midfield as well, has been sparingly used by Mosimane since his acquisition of right-wing back Thapelo Morena from Bloemfontein Celtic during last year's transfer window.
Mbekile only made 17 appearances fo Sundownst season, with most of his appearances (nine games) coming during Sundowns’ triumphant season in the Caf Champions League. To compound the confusion, this season the Cape Town-born footballer is yet to make a single appearance for the Brazilians.
Mbekile took some time out to reply to his coach’s remarks and in the process dished out some special praise for Morena.
“It’s always nice to hear such words coming from the coach. He’s been around and he’s worked with so many players. I just have to be patient because Morena has been doing well and we can’t change a team just because of one person. When the team is doing well, then they have to stick with that. I am just waiting for my time and when I get it, I’ll make sure that I do well,” said Mbekile.
Answering Mosimane’s claims that he’s not playing because he prefers a midfield role over right-back, Mbekile said: “We never really spoke about that but I think it’s something that he picked up. I don’t know, I never went to him and told him that I don’t want to play at right-back. I am always ready to play; it doesn’t matter whether it’s right-back or midfield. He has the best interest of the team. If he thinks I can do well at right-back, I just have to accept it and play.”
But not only does Mbekile face competition from Morena at right-back, there’s also the experienced duo of Anele Ngcongca and Siyanda Zwane, who are fighting to get a starting nod from Mosimane.
“Actually Morena and I are best friends," explained Mbekile, "We stay close to each other and we talk a lot. Zwane is a nice guy, we get along. I think at Sundowns everyone gets along, we have that culture where we support each other. Whoever is playing, we support him. We get along fine, we support Morena when he is playing and we expect the same (support) from him (when we play)."
Mbekile will be hoping that getting some game-time with the reserve team will help him push for a place in Mosimane’s plans.