He cannot walk my journey and vice versa”.
It’s never easy growing up in a family members shadow, where you are constantly reminded that you will never be as good as they are or that you are where you are because of your sibling. In Mzansi we have seen a lot of brothers that have played our beautiful game of football, the likes of the Mngomeni brothers, Zothwanes and the Mnguni brothers to name a few. Some set the bar high and the younger ones never really took off with their careers and are deemed to have failed to live up to expectations. One team of brothers that I have had the opportunity of seeing them really dishing out some good football are the Mayambela brothers Mark and Mihlali.
The name Mark Mayambela when you mention it brings out smiles and joy to the soccer loves around the country as he had made everyone accustomed to his fancy tricks, we have seen what he did at Bloemfontein Celtics and Orlando Pirates. Mihlali on the other side is a very exciting prospect and has shown what he can do on the field of play and it’s not by fluke that he is playing in Portugal.
What caught my attention when I had a chat with him is how he acknowledges the role Mark has played in his life and I could hear from his voice how much he means to him.
“He has been a role model in my life, from a younger age seeing him play football, making people happy, becoming famous and also being able to earn a living and providing for our family especially our mother. Growing up with him around was great, him turning professional meant that life would change for us as a family, our circumstances changed all of a sudden and we became famous because of him”.
The Khayelitsha born had to fight his battles and to prove to the masses that he is not living in his brother’s shadow and that he too had the talent to match nor be better than him. It seemed to be a daunting task for S.C. Farense player but so far he has managed very well.
” It wasn’t easy at all but having him around made things a bit better. I knew I had the gift of playing football and I had to be my own man. His presence made me want to push even harder and that has been my way of doing this and it has gotten me so far in my career. I knew from a younger age that my back was against the wall from an early age when I started playing football, not because I wasn’t good enough but because of what my brother had done and achieved in the game. It wasn’t nice when people would compare the two of us and being told that I will never be like him but that made me strong, now I had to go and play football in order to prove that I had the talent. It didn’t matter where I was playing but as long as I made people happy I was happy also.
The 22-year-old journey in football was not rosy as some would assume, he started out at ASD Academy where the likes of Ayanda Patosi and Ebrahim Seedat where groomed then he changed province and joined the youth structures of Kaizer Chiefs. It was at the Bayhill Premier Cup 2015 when Mihlali made everyone aware of his talent as he voted player of the tournament and scored six goals.
“I did not care who I played with as long as I am in the field of play. Bendifuna ucacisa qha mna, If you look at the team that played the Bayhill Premier Cup and went on to lose in the final, I played with a group of guys that were unknown but we surprised everyone in the tournament as we went on to the final. I must mention coach Boebie Solomon for the role he played as he was the one that believed in my abilities and was the same one that gave me my first professional contract with Cape Town All-Stars in the National First Division. My debut game in pro ranks was at home and both my mom and brother were there to witness it, I will cherish that moment forever.
Having signed a pro contract with Cape Town All Stars and participating in the BPC with JL Zwane and going all the way to the finals and scooping the coveted individual award, next for Mihlali was a national team call up at the junior level. That moment never came even though he was voted as the best player in the biggest youth tournament in the continent. Questions like why and when will he be called up were raised even today they are still being raised but the call-up!!! Dololo which leaves a lot of unanswered questions. I posed a question to him about the national team.
“I believe when it’s God’s time it’s the best time if I am supposed to be in the national team I will be in it, one thing we must understand is that Nothi sonke sizodlala kwi national team bafethu. Let us just support those that get called up qha. When I played in the Bayhill the National team was not even on my mind, all I wanted was to go and play in Europe. The Metropolitan Cup was an eye-opener for me. It was a stage for me to showcase what I possessed. During the Bayhill a representative from one of the biggest team in South Africa called me up to his hotel room and offered me a contract with huge money to join his side but I was honest with him and said I want to go play overseas. So for me to complain about things I don’t have control off that’s not me, my job is to go on the field of play and do what I love which is to play football”.
The former All-Stars man is currently playing in Portugal for SC Faranse in the second tier and is currently on loan from Swedish outfit Djurgarden.
“it wasn’t easy at first because I wasn’t exposed to Europe before, there were a lot of ups and downs in the journey but all have been worth it. At first, I had to overcome the fact that I was away from my family and game time was limited and also adapting to the culture here. I had to step up and also being a father brought other responsibilities and those are the sacrifices we have to make as soccer players and I hope more young players back home can follow suit at a young age”.
So far in the current season, Mihlali has played 26 games for SC Faranse and grabbed 5 goals with two assists, hopefully, this young lad will continue to raise the Mzansi flag and grow leaps and bound and with the guidance of his big brother the world is his oyster.
“One thing me and my brother have always used in life is that we believe in action than words and that has always worked wonders for us. Seeing him succeeding in his life has made me believe that I can also achieve with my talent. he is always there for me, calls me every day. He knows that I have my own life and he has his, I have my football career and also he has his. he cannot walk my journey and vice versa and that is what makes me grateful to have him as a brother”