Xola Mlambo (right) in action for Orlando Pirates during the Soweto Derby. Photo: orlandopiratesfc.com

JOHANNESBURG – When Xola Mlambo arrived at Orlando Pirates Football Club, he was a player who had struggled for game time. 

His inclusion in the Buccaneers squad was seen as a gamble that would either pay dividends or prove problematic for the demanding Bucs fans.

But in an interview with Orlandopiratesfc.com, Mlambo said that life at Orlando Pirates has not been what he expected.

“In fact I was never ready for the tremendously positive ride it has been so far. It has been great and I have received amazing support from the guys. Everyone is prepared to help and fight for one another on the field of play, and you can't ask more than that.

“It’s it humbling to witness the level of team spirit that we have. With my experience as a player I am aware of how rare it is to find a team where the fringe players are supportive of the guys who get regular game time.” 

Mlambo had pre-existing relationships with some players before his arrival and has now improved those relationships.

“When you come to a different work space you often find that you have to learn to manage the egos you work with in order to have a decent work environment. That is not the case at Pirates.

“My apprehension over egos was quickly dispelled when I realised that I am not working with celebrities, but rather equal members of a team.”

Mlambo says the best experience was the recent Soweto Derby with Pirates coming out on top over Kaizer Chiefs.

“My goodness, that match is one memory I will carry for the rest of my life! 

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d wake up on a Saturday morning to start a Soweto Derby and have the Ghost cheering me on as passionately as they did. It was an amazing atmosphere, a bit overwhelming at first. 

“Nothing can prepare you for the roar of the fans as you come out of the player’s tunnel. I still get goosebumps thinking about it today.”

Meanwhile, Pirates' Serbian coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic has added to Mlambo's happiness by comparing him to former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich star Xabi Alonso.

“Mlambo is like Alonso. We have got a player who is going to add value to this team. And to think that he is still going to improve. We are privileged to have him.” 

African News Agency (ANA)

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