CAPE TOWN - Teko Modise is still the beating heart of Cape Town City. He may be 35 years of age - but, based on his unruffled performances for the Citizens, he is the quintessential example of the adage “there is no substitute for class and experience”.
City host Orlando Pirates in a Nedbank Cup last 16 clash at the Cape Town Stadium to on Wednesday night (kick-off 7.30pm) - and, no doubt, Modise, a former Pirates star, will play an influential role in coach Benni McCarthy’s plans.
Football, they always say, is a young man’s game, which is why clubs are always promoting, developing and maturing emerging talent. While that may be so, it’s just as important that these budding players are guided and advised by the seasoned, old hands in the squad.
Football in South Africa is often too quick to discard its 30-somethings - make no mistake, they still have a lot to offer, not just on the field, but off it too, in a leadership and mentorship capacity.
Even now, there are veterans in the PSL still performing with energy and enthusiasm, all because their clubs have managed them in the right way. For example, long-time campaigners like Siphiwe Tshabalala (33), Hlompho Kekana (32), Mabhuti Khenyeza (35), Morgan Gould (34) and Siyabonga Nomvete (40) still play key roles with their respective teams.
Modise, too, is another such veteran. McCarthy may be in his first season as a head coach, but, as someone who has experienced the difficulty of a player’s waning years, he understands that rest is just as important as playing. As a result, he has managed Modise extremely well - and, in the process, got the best out of a player who, in his pomp, twice won the coveted Football of the Year title in the PSL.
“I have to commend Teko (Modise) for the way he controls the game for us,” said McCarthy. “He is always man-marked, but he still manages to find pockets of space. For his age, and he’s still so influential, I’m really happy with the way he is performing.”
And that, in a nutshell, is Modise’s strength. His superior technical ability allows him so much more time on the ball - and, because of that, he is always available for teammates, can spray passes to unlock the opposition’s defence, and dictate the tempo of the game. McCarthy, with the masterly Modise as the midfield axis, will certainly be cooking up something special to put one over former club Pirates.
Because there is quite a Pirates connection in the current City squad; McCarthy has always had a soft spot for the Buccaneers. When he returned to South Africa in 2011 after a successful stint in Europe and he decided to finish off his career at home, there could only be one choice: Pirates.
On arrival at the Soweto club, two of his teammates at the time were Modise and current City captain Robyn Johannes.
So, taking that into consideration, there’s certainly no need to explain the emotional aspect linked to the City v Pirates fixture. Nostalgia may be in the air - but, once the referee blows the whistle to kick off what is sure to be a drama-filled, intriguing encounter, only victory will matter.