The subject of who is the best attacking midfielder in South African football is a difficult question to answer judging by the number of talented midfielders in the PSL.
Ndabayithethwa “Philip” Ndlondlo is one of those players. Speaking to ThisIsFootball.Africa, the 27-year-old Orlando Pirates fan favorite, spoke about how supposed experts in the game told him that he would never make it as a professional because he was too short.
Clifton Mabasa (CM) : Ndabayithethwa, thanks for taking your time to speak with us, let’s get straight to it, why didn’t you last at AmaZulu?
Philip Ndlondlo (PN) : To be honest with you, I don’t really know what happened, I was surprised to get a message saying that I should come to the office to get my clearance. That’s how I found out and how I parted ways with the team.
CM: You were already playing in the senior side, right?
PN: Yes, I was playing in the senior team, but usually, they asked me to go to play in the MDC, so I was mostly playing in the MDC.
CM: How did you feel, and what happened after your AmaZulu departure?
PN: After I left AmaZulu, I went to Maccabi in the ABC Motsepe League, I trained with them and played for them until we won the league and promotion to the National First Division. But then again, I was told I was not big enough to play in the NFD. I was released when the team started playing in the NFD. They played one season and then they sold the status to Swallows.
CM: That was bad, yeah…
PN: Then I moved on trying to be strong. I went to train with Baberwa FC and the coach, Jabulani Mendu, who used to play for Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns in midfielder asked me to stay with the team. I trained there for about three weeks. We played friendlies against PSL and National First Division clubs, and one of the teams was Tshakhuma Tsha Madivhandila.
TTM then saw me playing and performing well against them. Then they said they wanted to sign me. Eventually, I went there, signed the deal and the rest was history.
CM: You became a star at the club…
PN: Yes, we even won the Nedbank Cup there. I was so stressed at first and asked myself what is happening to me. On social media I would get some negative comments, people saying I’m a short player and that I won’t go anywhere. They also said that my height doesn’t favor me and all those negative kind of things. I can’t mention names or teams, but I was told I’m short, I can’t play.
I ignored it and believed more in myself simply because there was no one else believing in me. When you get such comments from people and coaches and team managers, it hurts. But if you know what you want as a footballer, you just need to hang in there and keep pushing yourself and to keep doing what you do best. I guess being at big team now, is the reward. I mean, look at where I am now.
CM: You come a long way, let’s look at Pirates. what is it ike to play at one of the biggest teams on the continent?
PN: I am now happy. Being at Pirates means a lot to me because at the beginning I was stressed about how my career began. There is pressure at a big team. But as a player, you need to manage it because everywhere there is a pressure. It’s not a bad thing to be pressured as long as you know how to deal with it. The pressure coming from supporters of a great team like Pirates makes us better players. It makes us know that we must do better.
CM: You played your first derby. The winning goal came from your incident. How did you feel afterwards, more especially that it was your first derby?
PN: Obviously, I felt bad because after they took the ball from me, they scored, and we lost from it. The incident happened because of me, it came from me, but I think that was a foul. But mistakes are human. I felt bad afterwards, but I quickly forgot about it and focused on the future because it doesn’t help to still think about what happened in the past.
CM: As much is anticipated from you, what do you promise the Buccaneers supporters?
PN: We have already won the MTN8, that was the first thing that was in my mind when I joined the team. And now we have won it. Now we need to compete for the league title. I want us to win the league and become champions. I promise our fans that they will see me scoring, assisting and helping the team. I know what fans are expecting from me. A lot will come.
CM: Ndlondlo, lastly, let’s talk about Bafana Bafana, you are not part of the team, some would say you deserve to be there, is that worrying you?
PN: As I told you, I guess it is not the right time, I am not worried about not being at Bafana. I will keep pushing myself, working hard and doing the best that I can to impress the coach. I haven’t done well so far to deserve the opportunity to play at the national team. The time will come. I only played in the junior level for South Africa in 2014. That was the last time I have worn a national team jersey. I want to push and work hard to earn another Bafana Bafana call up.
CM: Ndabayithethwa, thanks once again for your time, good luck for the rest of the season.