With his playing days behind him, Thando Mngomeni is ready for what lies ahead, writes WADE PRETORIUS in SoccerClub magazine.
An all too familiar situation in South African football has emerged over the past two decades: a retired footballer, beloved by thousands of adoring fans, down and out after hanging up his boots. One player looking to buck that trend and make a positive impact to the game he loves is Thando Mngomeni.
The younger brother of Thabo Mngomeni, Thando spent little time in the shadow of his brother’s success. The now 33-year-old signed his first professional contract while still in high school and rose through the ranks of age-group football with consummate ease. Thando represented South Africa at U17, U20 and U23 level before earning five caps for Bafana Bafana.
Naturally skilful, Thando caught the eye of Sweden’s Helsingborgs IF scouts, and in 2004 became the first South African to make the move to the Scandinavian nation. His flair and wizardry on the ball made him an attractive player to fans and scouts alike, and he played for seven clubs during his 13-year career.
Mngomeni has returned home to Cape Town and wants to give back to the community where he made his name.
‘I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and trying to unearth and produce a lot more players from Cape Town,’ Mngomeni tells SoccerClub.
‘We need to up our game and work on our development structures; a lot of hard work lives ahead because there is loads of talent we are missing in between.’
A double Nedbank Cup winner, Mngomeni will no doubt be scouting young players who possess his one key characteristic. ‘The will to win is No 1. If you don’t have that competitive edge, you will struggle to make it to the highest level.’ Mngomeni understands the importance of getting things right off the field and the sacrifices one must make in order to perform consistently at the highest level. ‘If I could go back and do it again, I would rest a lot more and help my body recover in between training and games.’
Who better to groom the future generation of players than someone who has been there and done it over and over again. Mngomeni has also set himself the goal of becoming a top-class analyst. Currently, he lends his reputation, voice and opinions to Diski Nites, a monthly live, interactive talkshow in Cape Town, which has featured prominent figures like Matthew Booth, Roger de Sa, Nathan Paulse and Andrew Tucker.
It’s refreshing to know that this former star is ready to make even more headlines, and positive ones at that.
– This article first appeared in issue 69 of SoccerClub magazine.