CAPE TOWN – It has taken a while, but Cape Town City’s Surprise Ralani has finally announced himself to the PSL. The winger is in his first stint in South Africa, at the age of 30, having spent almost a decade in Sweden and Denmark.
He initially struggled to adapt to his new surroundings and the speed of the game in the PSL - but he finally made his presence felt with a top-class, man-of-the-match performance against Mamelodi Sundowns at the weekend.
While City unfortunately came off second-best against the Pretoria club, Ralani’s display is good news for the Capetonians - and they will be looking for more of the same from the Kimberley-born winger when they host Golden Arrows in a league fixture at Cape Town Stadium tonight (7.30pm kickoff).
Ralani arrived at City during the January transfer window, having previously played for Scandanavian clubs like Helsingborgs, Hassleholm, Landskrona Bois and Lyngby.
It was a slow start for the player in the Mother City and he really battled to get going. But then, last month, during the Caf Confederation Cup match against Swaziland’s Young Buffaloes, a competition head coach Benni McCarthy was using to offer fringe players an opportunity for game time, Ralani came to the party in spectacular fashion.
The penny had finally dropped - he produced a superb performance in that game that had McCarthy suitably impressed. At the time, the City coach said: “Surprise is definitely in with a shout (for a place in the first team). His energy and his trickery were a breath of fresh air. His composure was great to see, and his European quality is starting to show.”
On Sunday, in one of the biggest stages, and starting against a big club like Sundowns, Ralani demonstrated his undoubted class as he gave the opposition defence a torrid time. Even Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane admitted afterwards: “Surprise Ralani stole the show he deserved the man-of-the-match award. He played very well.”
Ralani, though, is not getting too carried away. He knows a footballer is only as good as his last game. In the end, it’s about consistency - and he needs to produce more of the same against Arrows tonight.
“I think that (against Sundowns) was probably my best game for City,” said Ralani. “It was nice to play against Sundowns - they are a very good team, so I had to show my quality against such a team.
I thought that the times we broke through we could have got one or two goals in the first half, but we couldn’t, and they got us on the counter in the second half and scored the goal. We had a very good game against Sundowns, but they won it; it’s unfortunate for us.”
As a professional footballer, Ralani has certainly been very fortunate to work with some of the game’s greats. While now under the tutorship of South African legend McCarthy, during his time at Helsingborgs, Ralani had the honour of being coached by Swedish great Henrik Larsson, who, as a player, trod the fields of Europe with distinction at clubs like Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United.
Needless to say, the knowledge and experience of McCarthy and Larsson will have rubbed off on Ralani - and now, having adapted to the pace and rigours of the PSL, the winger can go on and cement his place in the City team.
Today: Platinum Stars v Baroka FC; Polokwane City v SuperSport United; Free State Stars v Kaizer Chiefs; Cape Town City v Golden Arrows (Cape Town Stadium, 7.30pm); Mamelodi Sundowns v Chippa United; Orlando Pirates v Bloemfontein Celtic