Former Gamalakhe star Cele takes his chance in the PSL

Maritzburg United midfielder Mondli Cele is proof that there is plenty of talent in the lower divisions ready to make the step up to the PSL.

Cele has been a regular in the Maritzburg team this season, head coach Steve Komphela having had no hesitation in throwing the inexperienced midfielder into the deep end. And to date, its paid dividends, with the player putting in some outstanding performances in the middle of the park for the KZN Midlands outfit.

Cele’s very first game was against none other than the star-studded Absa Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns; a big step up for a player that was last season playing in the ABC Motsepe Second Division with the Port Shepstone-based Gamalakhe United.

It had been while playing for Gamalakhe in last season’s Nedbank Cup that Cele was able to put his talents under the spotlight during a televised game against Santos earlier this year.

“The [Maritzburg] assistant coach, Mandla Ncikazi, saw me playing in the Nedbank Cup for Gamalakhe against Santos down in Cape Town. I was invited to train with the club before the end of last season, and then returned for pre-season, and after that signed a contract,” Cele explained.

The Durban-born 25-year-old admits making his debut against the Brazilians up in Pretoria (a 1-1 draw) was a real baptism of fire, but says some wise words from Komphela enabled him to soon find his rhythm and settle into the game.

“I was very nervous before that game,” he said, “I had never played in front of a crowd even close to that size and it was quite intimidating, seeing some of the PSL’s biggest stars lining up next to us. But coach Steve motivated me, he told me to just go out and play my normal game and do what I usually do on the field. When the game started I got some good early touches, kept things simple, and then my confidence started to lift and I became less nervous and began to enjoy the game.”

Cele will need to prove himself over time, but if the player’s attitude is anything to go by, we could be hearing about him for a while still:

“I was very happy with the opportunity the Maritzburg technical team gave me,” he said, “it’s very difficult for players from the Second Division to get a chance in the PSL, it does not happen a lot. For me it was a life-changing opportunity, I had the hunger to play at this level, and I was determined to make the most of the chance. So I have been working extremely hard at training, and this has helped me adapt quickly to playing at a higher level.”