He is like Gift Leremi – Rhulani Mokwena on 16-year-old Sundowns debutant Siyabonga Mabena

Johannesburg – Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena has raised the expectations of 16-year-old debutant Siyabonga Mabena after comparing him to the late Gift Leremi.

The Brazilians took a huge stride towards securing yet another league title when they hammered Royal AM at the Loftus Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Given their dominance in the match, Mokwena and his technical team opted to hand Mabena his first appearance for the senior team after he made the match-day squad for the first time.

The nippy attacking midfielder showed promising signs as his elegant first touch, bravery on the ball and off-the-ball movements caught the eye of many football lovers.

Mokwena, however, has taken it up a couple of levels, claiming that even though the School of Excellence product is far from the level of Leremi, Mabena’s skill set can only be compared to that of the former Pirates legend.

“What the late Gift Leremi had, is what I see (in Mabena),” Mokwena said after the match.

“His balance, left foot, right foot and the change of direction at speed is very difficult to control but obviously Va Va Voom (Leremi) was something special, but I think this boy has got so many characteristics that the late Gift had.”

The 2022/2023 campaign for Sundowns has not only yielded remarkable results, but has also seen the club able to hand out opportunities to youngsters emerging from the club’s academy.

While the likes of Thando Buthelezi, Jerome Karelse, Ntando Nkosi and Siyanda Nyanga have all been handed debuts this season, Cassius Mailula has emerged as one of the brightest talents for the future.

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The 21-year-old has set the top flight on fire since making his debut late last year and is not only in contention for the Young Player of the Season, but also the Footballer of the Season award as well.

Mailula has been involved in 20 goals in all competitions in 2022/23; just the second player to have done so this season, alongside his teammate Peter Shalulile who has 22 goal involvements.

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Mokwena had nothing but congratulatory remarks for every member of the Sundowns academy staff who had a hand in grooming the talents of these emerging stars.

“The youngsters are a reflection of the one, the investment of the club, two, the hard work of the academy staff and everyone involved and of course the talents of these boys,” he expressed.


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