JOHANNESBURG – Bongani Khumalo looks back at the three Absa Premiership titles SuperSport United won with great pride, even though that time coincided with suffering on the home front.
The youngest captain to lift the league triophy at 23, which he did in the 2008/09 season and repeated the following season, did so during a tough time for him personally.
The first league title he won as captain, SuperSport’s second in a hat-trick of titles, came during a time when his mother was battling cancer. She lost that fight in the 2009/10 season which had many highs for Khumalo - featuring in the 2009 Confederation Cup and the 2010 World Cup on home soil. While those accomplishment with Bafana were great, captaining SuperSport to league glory is up there in his most memorable moments.
“That’s going back to almost 10 years ago,” Khumalo said. “It was a totally different crop of players, with a different mentality and in a different time in football. The game has evolved here at home, whether for the better or worse, that’s for the fans to judge.
But either way, it’s still a very competitive league. I don’t want to spend too much time comparing players and times, obviously back then it was a great time for the club.
“We look back with great memories and fondness of the time. The challenge now is for these young players and us old players to make these seasons count and ensure that we win things because that’s what the game is about. If we can win things early into the career of the young players we have, it could plant a great seed for them for the rest of their careers to understand what level they need to compete at in order to have a long career in this game.”
SuperSport started this season with a 2-0 loss to their Pretoria neighbours Mamelodi Sundowns. They have a chance to make up for that bad start by collecting maximum points against an Orlando Pirates team they have troubled in the past. Pirates return to Mbombela Stadium tonight to face SuperSport where Matsatsantsa once thumped them 6-1.
“It’s not news that in the past couple of seasons they have been a great threat,” Khumalo said. “Ever since (assistant) coach Rhulani (Mokwena) joined them, they have grown in leaps and bounds. They have a philosophy and they play with great energy. They are very, very open and they pay expansive football.
They won’t be an easy team to beat. The games we played against them last season showed that. They were very tight games, played with a very high level of football. I think that it’s great for the neutrals to watch, but for us it’s about one thing - getting points.
“We are going into this fresh,” Khumalo said.
“It’s a brand-new season and we will have to be at our best to get points. It’s really early days. It’s important to press that refresh button, go again and forget what happened last season.
Pirates have looked good. They looked good against Chiefs. They want to carry off where they left off last season. For us, we need to improve.
We need to get better and if we do so we will finish in a much healthier position.”