Ngobeni opens up about his frustrating time at Sundowns

Newly-signed Highlands Park goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni claims that he was not given an opportunity to show his worth at Sundowns.

Year-on-year Thela Ngobeni has been frustrated at Mamelodi Sundowns where he spent the most of his Downs tenure either out on loan or on the grand stands while the likes of Denis Onyango and Kennedy Mweene, along with Reeyad Pieterse of late, were coach Pitso Mosimane’s entrusted to man the goals for Masandawana.

Before Ngobeni joined Sundowns, he played second fiddle to Itumeleng Khune at Kaizer Chiefs and has now joined Highlands Park where he says he feels appreciated.

“I have had my fair share in the so-called big teams and I feel much happier than when I signed for Sundowns back then. There is something special about being here at Highlands because you feel wanted and special and I think I can do my best when I am appreciated,” he said.

READ: Sundowns goalkeeper completes Highlands switch

The 30-year-old shot-stopper revealed that while he was reduced to a spectator at Downs, he did not bother to consult with Mosimane to find out why he was starved of game time.

“When I was at Sundowns I was just not given the opportunity, simple… for some reason I don’t know. I never went to the coach and I didn’t want to ask why when other players were asking why they are not playing as that was the way to go.

“I told myself that I don’t want to break my principle of doing something that I am not. I stayed focused and I knew what I was capable of doing. I was probably at the right place at the wrong time.

“It has been unfortunate for me but what is more important now is me being here and it is a great opportunity for me and I think as a goalkeeper if you can take it to 40 and 45 years, why not. I just treat this opportunity as the beginning of my career and I am very excited,” he said.

Ngobeni continued: “I have the opportunity to express my God-given talent and all I have to do is to try and help the team and let’s see what are the possibilities. It will always be tough and I knew before coming to Highlands Park that there are good goalkeepers here.”

Ngobeni’s greatest moment in football is when he starred in Free State Stars’ Nedbank Cup triumph over Maritzburg United in the 2017/18 season, and he lists the gold medal he got at Stars as his first, although he has collected quite a few with Sundowns.

“The medal that I won at Free State Stars will always be special. Without disrespecting anyone, I take it as my first medal and with Highlands Park anything is possible, so why not get more? The ball is in my court and let’s see what we can achieve as a team,” he said.

Ngobeni, however, is grateful for his time with the Brazilians and competing with the likes of Denis Onyango and Kennedy.

“The experience of being there taught me so much in terms of being strong as a professional footballer and also the lifestyle and being disciplined. The environment of working with those individuals (Onyango and Mweene) was special to me, it never brought the best of me in terms of playing but it brought the best of me as a person.”

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