The 33-year-old Pietermaritzburg born defender became the youngest Bafana Bafana captain 13 years ago in a career that started with fireworks, even scoring on debut for English outfit Tottenham Hotspur when he joined them in 2003.
But his off-field problems – going AWOL, a six-month ban for using a banned substance and driving under the influence of alcohol – fizzled out all of that promise. Now at his eighth professional club, Mpumalanga Black Aces, Mabizela has learned his lesson. At AmaZayoni his leadership skills have shown, with the Premiership rookies punching above their weight to occupy eighth position with seven matches remaining.
“The mistakes I have made have taught me valuable life lessons,” Mabizela said.
“The challenges I have faced have been different. They are the reason why I am where I am now. I have learned my lesson and moving forward with my life. There are things that happened to me that hurt me and others that have made me grow as a person.”
Mabizela grew as a player when he was at Orlando Pirates, who Aces face tonight at Orlando Stadium, between 2001 and 2003, where he also captained the Buccaneers. He might not wear the armband at Aces but he is among the leaders in a team that has Onyekachi Okonkwo, Ofentse Nato and Mabhuti Khenyeza. Aces coach Clive Barker has showered the outfit with praises, labelling them as the best passing team in the league.
“The reason why we are playing like we are is that we have a group of players who have seen many things in their careers,” Mabizela said.
“We have strong leadership on the field. We are starting to gel, as we are now used to each other. We are not there yet, but we are going far and people will start to take note of us.”
The good thing about legendary status is that it has no expiry date.