Legends Corner: Thabo Mngomeni the proud jahman

JAHMAN! That's how Thabo Mngomeni greeted me when I rang him.

The stylish former Orlando Pirates linkman is still a proud Rastafarian and still wears dreadlocks.

An ankle injury put paid to his glorious career in 2003, but the 43-year-old who is based in Cape Town is itching to return to the beautiful game.

Mngomeni, who was revered for his bicycle kicks and high work rate as a player, is going through a difficult patch because of unemployment.

How do you survive?

It's difficult but I'm fortunate my wife is by my side. She has stuck with me even after my playing days and I'm grateful for that. My wife works as a clerk and she provides for us. We have five daughters.

What are you doing to get your life back on track?

I've just completed a Safa Level 2 coaching course and I'm eager to continue learning as I want to became a successful coach with one of the top PSL clubs in future. I sometimes get some coaching jobs at local Vodacom League clubs here in Cape Town and this helps me to provide for the family.

Who gave you your break in professional football?

Sergio do Santos when he signed me at Cape Town Spurs back in 1992. He recruited me from Tembu Royals (an amateur side from Eastern Cape) after I impressed him when we played against Spurs in a tournament in Cape Town.

What was your stay at Spurs like?

I was a bit nervous when I arrived because I was the only Xhosa-speaking player and there was a bit of a language barrier. But they made me feel at home. I left them after a season, after the arrival of new coach Mich d'Avray. That man hated me with a passion and didn't know why.

What happened?

Like I said, I don't know. He treated me shabbily and he thought he was destroying me but in fact he motivated me. I was earning R500 per month and I remember him telling me that there was a player who was earning R2500 per month and that I would remain on R500 as long as he was in charge.

So you left them?

Yeah, I went to D'Alberton Callies on a loan spell and left after saving them from relegation to join Manning Rangers on another loan deal in 1994. I was then recruited by Sturu Pasiya at Umtata Bush Bucks at the end of 1994. I stayed with Bush Bucks until 1999 and I had a wonderful time at the team. I built a profile for myself and it was not surprising when Orlando Pirates started to show interest in me.

What were the challenges at Pirates?

I joined them in 1999 and I was happy with the way things turned out. I was aware that it would not be easy to break into the first team as they had quality midfielders like John Moeti, Dumisa Ngobe, Jabu Mnguni and Steve Lekoelea. But that inspired me to redouble my efforts and prove my ability and I ended up being a regular.

When did you leave Pirates?

In 2001-02 season, and I joined Hellenic the following season but I didn't last long after an ankle injury ended my career.

Have you ever tested positive for dagga?

No. The doping test was introduced while I was at Bush Bucks and the club officials, who were aware that I smoke dagga, advised me to stop to save my career. I started smoking only in the off-season.

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