How Mathebula got his wings
MOROKA Swallows midfield genius David Mathebula credits coach Gordon Igesund with revitalising his football career.
Mathebula has described the current season as his best in the Premier Soccer League since 2004.
Despite being a midfielder, Mathebula has a penchant for scoring goals and he is in line to win the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot award.
He is the third highest scorer in the league with 10 goals, behind leader and teammate Siyabonga Nomvethe (13) and Free State Stars marksman Edward Manqele (11).
Just like Nomvethe, Mathebula is one of the senior players influential in the recovery of the Dube Birds, who flirted with relegation last season.
Today Swallows are counted among the firm favourites to lift the Absa Premiership trophy alongside Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns, SuperSport United and Free State Stars.
Sowetan caught up with the humble Mathebula at the club's training at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto this week where he spoke highly about Igesund's influence on his career.
RAMATSIYI MOHOLOA (RM): You have been one of the consistent performers this season. Can you take us through the transformation process?
DAVID MATHEBULA (DM): Credit to coach Gordon (Igesund). When I came to Swallows, he sat me down and told me what he expected from me. He said he wanted me to play regularly but I would have to improve my performance. The coach said the role that I will be playing will be to assist in defence when we are under siege from the opposition, and also to go forward when we attack. Gordon is special and like a father figure because it is rare to find a coach who gets up closeand personal withhis players on a regular basis. He spoke to me like a father who wanted to see his son succeeding.The coach has brought joy to my life as a soccer player. I have never enjoyed my professional soccer career this much.
Let me confess, my performance this season has also surprised me. I'm happy that I'm playing regularly again after such a long time.
RM: You are one of the players who stand a chance of winning the top goalscorer award this season, how does it feel considering you are the only midfielder in the fray?
DM: It feels good, very good. The support I have been getting from my teammates, technical staff and management has been incredible. When I joined Swallows at the beginning of the season, all I wanted was to continue with my professional soccer career after my contract with Kaizer Chiefs expired while I was on loan with Mpumalanga Black Aces.
One of the things that the coach encouraged me to do when I came to Swallows was to practices shooting at training. Practice makes perfect.
It is paying dividends because I have been scoring goals to contribute to the success of Swallows. I'm also happy for Bhele (Nomvethe).
The fact that Bhele and I are scoring on a regular basis makes it difficult for the opposition to focus on an individual player.
RM:What do you think of your chances of winning the league trophy?
DM: From the beginning of the season, the coach told us to believe in ourselves, that we are equally capable of challenging for the league. The strategy that we developed was that we should keep a low profile and not make noise about our league title aspirations and by doing so we were taking the pressure off us. I strongly believe we have a good chance of winning the league, like all the other clubs in the running.
Even if we don't win it, I believe we have done well as a collective this season, considering that last season we were fighting for survival.
It is good for Maswaiswai (Swallows' supporters) that their blood pressure does not have to rise anymore as was the case in the past. Swallows are now championship material.
It is a work in progress, we want to start challenging for all the silverware on offer in the PSL next season.
Swallows are going back to their glory days where the likes of Ace Mnini, Thomas Hlongwane, William Makhura, Noel Cousins, Andries Mpondo and Les Grobler used to win titles.
RM:Going back to Chiefs, how did you feel when you were loaned out to Aces?
DM: For me the most important thing was that there was another club where my services were needed. I did not have a problem. Remember that I had all sorts of injuries at that time. I could not play regularly as a result of that.
There are no hard feelings for me. It was time for me to move on.
RM: Experts are tipping you to be one of the nominees for the player of the season award. What is your comment?
DM: I agree that I have been playing well. It's really encouraging to hear people saying some great things about me and I appreciate it. Beyond that, I will leave it up to the judges. There are other players who have done well this season, like Bhele.
RM:At 28, how do you see your chances of playing for Bafana Bafana?
DM: Pretty good, but it's not something that I worry about. If I get a call-up, it will be great. Like any other player, I also want to play for my country. There is no shop in the world where one can buy experience. If I don't get a call-up, I will keep on supporting Bafana Bafana, as I have been doing in the past.