Taunted for having made ’a bad move’ back in 2016 when Ramahlwe Mphahlele left a Mamelodi Sundowns outfit he captained to join Kaizer Chiefs, the right-back would no doubt have felt a tinge of regret at his decision.
FOR SOMEONE who was the butt of many Mamelodi Sundowns fans’ jokes five years ago, Ramahlwe Mphahlele could well have the last laugh on the weekend.
Taunted for having made a “bad move” back in 2016 when he left a Sundowns outfit he captained to join Kaizer Chiefs, the right-back would no doubt have felt a tinge of regret at his decision.
After all, just after he’d traded Chloorkop for Naturena he watched from a distance as the Brazilians captured the Caf Champions League title to become only the second South African team after Orlando Pirates to be crowned African champions.
As if that was not bad enough, the club he had just joined and success suddenly resembled the parallel lines of the railway – seemingly destined never to meet.
That, though, is likely to change on Saturday on the biggest stage of them all – the Champions League final that Mphahlele narrowly missed out on five years ago.
As he looks ahead to Chiefs’ clash with reigning champions and record nine-time winners Al Ahly, Mphahlele exuded the confidence of a man at peace with the direction his career has taken. No regrets about the past, just gratitude at having the opportunity at winning continental club football’s ultimate prize.
“We as players feel very proud to go to the champions league final, very proud of what we’ve achieved to reach this stage,” he said of a feat a lot of players can only dream about.
“Not many players get to play in the Caf Champions League final. Many players go through their careers without reaching this final. So I am very happy and I am looking at this saying it is possible for South African clubs to do this year-in and year-out.”
Playing in the continental final, Mphahlele believes, could only raise the players’ standing in the sport.
“This also improves our CVs and when we retire we would be able to look back at this and say I was part of the Chiefs team that played Al Ahly in the Caf Champions League final.”
Do not, however, misconstrue all this to mean Mphahlele is simply content with reaching the final.
Far from it, for he would love to see Amakhosi joining their rivals Pirates and Sundowns as the only South African teams to have a star above their badges.
“After all this is the only title that is missing in the Chiefs collection of trophies and as players we know just how important it is for us to try by all means to win this so that Chiefs’ name can be on the list of those clubs that have been champions of Africa.”
He knows, though, that they are up against it, facing as they will the defending champions and a team that is chasing a 10th title.
“We are going to play Al Ahly, a big team in all of Africa, a team that has won this trophy more than any other team.
“But football is not about the before or what you’ve done in the past. It is about the 90 minutes that we are going to play on the 17th (Saturday), about how prepared you are for the 90 minutes.
“You have to give your all and we are ready for Al Ahly. We’ve prepared well.”
Success will not only be for the Glamour Boys but for the entire country, he believes.
“And if Chiefs win this, then all of South Africa will benefit because the teams from north Africa – Morocco, Egypt and Algeria – will begin to know that South African teams can play good football. A few years ago Sundowns won it. So it is very important that all South African teams must play in this competition annually.”