The name on everybody’s lips after Mamelodi Sundowns won their 15th consecutive game in the PSL was Cassius Mailula, the wonderkid who has taken the league by storm this season, scoring 9 goals and getting 3 assists in just 15 games. Mailula is arguably the most exciting talent we have seen in South Africa since Keegan Dolly at Ajax Cape Town. However, if we want Mailula to be South Africa’s next megastar, he needs to continue starting and quickly become the main man of the Brazilians.
The next two years are going to be pivotal for Cassius Mailula, and the reason for this isn’t as much a question of his talent, but rather his age. Mailula, who is 21 years old, turns 22 in June. For South African standards, he is still considered a young player, but compared to European football, he should be an established first-team member, not just an exciting prospect.
Coach Rulani Mokwena is going to play a huge role in Mailula’s development, both in terms of his playing time and coaching perspective, and also to keep his feet on the ground. Mokwena recently said in a press conference that he advises Mailula to “walk barefoot.” It is essential that Mailula gets the playing time he needs, and especially with Sundowns coasting to the league title, he should get plenty of minutes. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the future of South African football literally lies in the hands of coach Mokwena and Sundowns.
The argument will now come into play as to whether or not Cassius Mailula should go out on loan to a team at a higher level than the PSL. Whether or not Mailula will have suitors in Europe remains to be seen, but if he continues on this trajectory, there will almost certainly be a queue of clubs waiting to sign him.
Mailula’s race is against time, and that is why he should go to Europe as soon as possible to further aid his development and carry the torch for South African football over the next decade. If we compare him to other South African youngsters already playing abroad, such as Tristan van Gilst (19) at PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands, Daniel Viljoen (17) at Victoria Guimaraes in Portugal, Michael Dokunmu (18) at Vitesse FC in the Netherlands, Archie Harris (17) at AFC Bournemouth in England, and Daniel Jordan (16) at Ajax Amsterdam in the Netherlands, these players are all a few years younger than Mailula and have left home to gain experience overseas. Some of those were either born overseas or SA parents moved overseas at a very young age.
Overall, Cassius Mailula can do whatever he wants in football. He has that much natural talent, so the role of coach Rulani Mokwena , Sundowns, and his own mentality and desire to be the best is contingent on leaving South Africa as soon as possible, given his name and if he wants to be South Africa’s next superstar. Sundowns and Mailula need to take heed that even a SA talent as big as Percy Tau, left the PSL too late to make it in the EPL, despite doing very well in Belgium. It is the early formative years of a players career that is so important and Mailula needs game time and better opposition that what the PSL affords Sundowns right now.
Also read: Arthur Zwane’s Dolly headache!