Fate has dealt a cruel hand to Mamelodi Sundowns’ budding right back, Papi Mungomeni.
The 23-year-old, who has become a regular in the Brazilians’ starting line-up this season, will miss playing in Saturday’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) showpiece, the Nedbank Cup final against First Division Mpumalanga Black Aces at the Johannesburg Stadium.
Kick-off is at 3pm.
Mungomeni found out late this week that the yellow card he received in Downs’ final Absa Premiership fixture against Free State Stars at the Super Stadium was his third, and he now faces an automatic one-match suspension, which means he is ruled out of the cup final against giant-killers Aces. To rub more salt into the wound, Downs were thrashed 4-0 by Stars.
Downs spokesperson Malhatse Mphahlele had the unenviable job of telling the player that he would miss the chance of appearing in his first-ever PSL cup final.
Said Mphahlele: ”It is a cruel blow. I explained to him that he is suspended and he had to accept it. He was bitterly disappointed and who would not be? I feel really sorry for him. But this is all part of the game. It is a bitter lesson for him. But playing at Sundowns, it will not be long before we reach another cup final. His wait for a cup winners’ medal will not be too long.”
But it will hurt Mungomeni in the pocket as well. Although Mphahlele was tight-lipped on what win bonuses the players could expect, club president Patrice Motsepe is always generous and traditionally the winning cheque, which is R6-million, will be shared among the players as incentive.
Downs coach Trott Moloto will not have to look far for a replacement for Mungomeni. He has a ready made experienced right back in the form of former Bafana Bafana star Vuyo Mere. Mere looks the obvious candidate to step in to fill the vacant right-back position.
It will be a classic David versus Goliath showdown with the more skilful and experienced Downs the red-hot favourites to lift the inaugural trophy.
But Aces assistant coach and former Orlando Pirates and Bafana star midfielder Dumi Ngobe has warned Downs not to expect an easy 90 minutes.
Said Ngobe: ”We are up for the challenge. We have done our homework and ready to cause another upset.”
Unless Aces get stage fright, they will be no pushovers. Goalkeeper Michel Babale, defenders Felix Musasa, Lucas Tlhomelang, Mandla Zwane, midfielder powerhouse Edelbert Dinha, Isaac Mabotsa and striker Kapamba Musasa have all played for top PSL clubs and have experience of the big-match atmosphere.
Aces head coach Kenny Ndlazi is also prepared to gamble on youth. The likes of attacking, but untested, midfielders Vusi Masondo, Dukes Machaka and Tornado Mongane have pace with which Ndlazi hopes to exploit the Downs defence.
Downs’ strength lies in their midfield, where Chilean international Jorge Acuna and Esrom Nyandoro hold the key. The duo have been in superb form this season. And in goal, Brain Baloyi has won every honour in the game but, at 34, is still hungry for more success.
Surprise Moriri and Lerato Chabangu will supply the attacking options for Downs.
Sundowns skipper Michael Manzini admitted there is a lot of pressure, but that he would not allow it to get to him.
On Aces he said: ”It is important we treat them with respect. Our duty is to go out there and win the game.” — Sapa