It is an ambition of every player to don the national team colours. It is not something easy because of the intense competition and once someone gets the chance he embraces it tightly.
One such player who got the chance is Notwane’s Mpoeleng Mpoeleng. For so many years, Mpoeleng’s talents have been overlooked and it came as a surprise when he was recently called up.
The call has come at a time when he was thinking about retirement. After finding themselves without a defensive midfielder following Fabian Zulu’s retirement, Notwane borrowed Mpoeleng’s experience and this did not go down well with some of the Notwane faithful who leveled broadsides against the team coach, Paul Moyo.
With a sense of triumph, Moyo commented, “I almost got killed for using him in the midfield.”
The aged coach believes Mpoeleng has always done all and well to deserve a national team calling, but was just unluckily overlooked on account of his physical structure. He too, believes he should long have made it to the national team but acknowledges there were some players like Momapti Thuma whom he said were better than him.
At Notwane, he played for a decade as a right back but insists he is naturally a midfielder. Unfortunately, by the time he arrived, the competition was tense in his position and the only available one was at full back, which he embraced.
However, he has met challenges and struggles to deal with the speed and skill of some local wingers like Joel Mogorosi and Phenyo Mongala. This fuelled the already existing doubts of his inability to play at the national team, and was deemed as not having the man marking skills requisite to deal with international wingers.
In fact, there was once a time when he had earned the reputation for foul play as he made a habit out of posting two footed challenges, which in most cases are career threatening.
In his midfield role he is flawless, and has been the inspiration of his team. The dirty work he has done in the midfield supplemented an equally robust attack and left the football fraternity awe strike. The combinations of the traits are devoid even among the sung defensive midfielders locally.
For his hard work, the man, also known as Stopper, was rewarded with goals, as he has scored three so far and it looks like he is headed for more. The national team call up is due credit to an indefatigable player who the national team coach could not ignore anymore.
The national team coach, Stanley Tshosane, could, however, not clarify if Mpoeleng had been called to the national team in his capacity as a full back or as a central midfielder.
“For now it is too early to say who will play where, he has proven himself as a utility player, and such players give coaches more options to make tactical maneuvers, he is thus a valuable addition to the team,” said the coach. Mpoeleng told Sunday Standard that he is delighted to finally get a chance to play for the national team.
If his performances are anything to go by, he is the ideal partner for Boitumelo Mafoko who has been in need of someone a little more mobile. Mpoelelng, however, faces stiff competition from Kemmy Pilato of Gunners.