‘He knows I love him’: Mokwena rallies behind Sundowns’ beleaguered Mvala

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Mamelodi Sundowns players dejected after the DStv Premiership loss to Cape Town City at Loftus Stadium.
Mamelodi Sundowns players dejected after the DStv Premiership loss to Cape Town City at Loftus Stadium.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena has rallied behind beleaguered defender Mothobi Mvala. 

Mvala lost concentration at a crucial stage of Saturday's DStv Premiership match and allowed Cape Town City’s Jaeden Rhodes to steal the ball from him and beat goalkeeper Ronwen Williams for the decisive goal on the hour mark. 

The Brazilians tried to recover from that schoolboy error but City held on to win 1-0 and hand Downs their first league defeat of the campaign in the last game, also ensuring the Citizens finished in fifth place on 45 points. The result denied Sundowns the tag “invincibles”, which they would have earned for going a league season unbeaten.

This was not the first time Mvala committed a costly error. It was his spectacular own goal against Wydad Casablanca in the Champions League semifinals that denied Sundowns a place in the final in 2023. 

At this year's Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast, Mvala brought down Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen in the box and the Super Eagles took the lead when captain William Troost-Ekong converted from the spot in the 1-0 semifinal defeat to Bafana Bafana. 

“He knows I love him like I love all my players,” Mokwena said. 

“We all make mistakes and I make more mistakes than anyone else. It is part of football and also it is perspective.

“If I ask you, 'what do you see when I lift up my hand?' you see a hand with five fingers and if I turn my hand around there is a difference. 

“The difference is colour and if I look at the hand at the same time with you, I see a completely different colour to what you see but it is still the same hand. So, my perspective is completely different to that of a lot of people.” 

Mokwena said fans will focus on the mistake but Mvala showed commitment throughout the season. 

“When people see mistakes, I see 29 games of incredible effort and that is the perspective I chose and he will definitely see the perspective the same way I see it because he will get the emotions from me. 

“My players know how much I love them. I have been with Mothobi Mvala through a lot of things. There are a lot of things you guys don’t know about the connection I have with this group. You can rest assured Mothobi will see the perspective I see.” 

City coach Eric Tinkler said he went to Loftus to collect three points to improve their log position. 

“It is about us — I don’t look at them but at us because we didn't have the season we aspired to have. Last season we finished on 45 points and this season we finished on the same number. 

“The pressure that was on me last season had no comparison to the pressure that was put on me this season. Yet we finished on the same number of points.

“But we went through a rough patch where we didn't perform and a lot of that went down to the right mentality, the right desire, not looking to play with that energy. 

“And we did lose a few key players and I thought we lacked certain qualities this season but the work ethic from me and the technical team was exceptional for us to finish where we finished. 

“At some stage we were on eight or nine games without a win and credit must go to the chair [John Comitis] and because he continued to believe in us.” 

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