Saleng or Mailula? Khan explains Player of the Season criteria


Former Kaizer Chiefs assistant coach and convener of the PSL end-of-season award, Farouk Khan, has weighed in on the Player of the Season debate, which for certain fans, had been the subject of controversy over the past seasons.

Mamelodi Sundowns star Cassius Mailula and in-form Orlando Pirates player Monnapule Saleng will most probably be in the running for the award. So, ThisIsFootball.Africa spoke exclusively to Khan about the selection criteria for the big prize.

The Stars of Africa mentor has brought through many youngsters over the years who have attracted the attention of overseas clubs and top local clubs, some even becoming household names both locally and abroad.

“Mailula has been fantastic,” Khan told ThisIsFootball.Africa.

“However, based on the fact that Saleng is playing in a team that is still in the building process and it’s his first season [at Pirates], the influence he has can’t be ignored.”

Mailula is in his first PSL season having graduated from DDC and ABC Motsepe league football, he has shown the signs of a brilliant footballer. Saleng is a former NFD top scorer and was snatched by Pirates after impressing for the now-defunct, Free State Stars. Pirates loaned him out last season to Swallows FC so that he can get game time, and there was no hesitation at the end of 2021-22 season that he should be retained by the Buccaneers.

Khan feels that these are the factors that can influence the judges when choosing the Player of the Season award.

“A player’s status in the league and popularity can influence judges. Who does the player play for? Even though nobody will say so openly,” Khan told ThisIsFootball.Africa.

Although Khan admits to this, it then raises the question of objectivity in the selection or nomination process. Players whose teams hardly receive television coverage, or whose teams are less on highlights shows, hardly feature on magazine programmes, have little to no media interest, and have no songs written about them: will they never be judged fairly?

“The fact that football is a game of opinions, no two people will agree on who the best nominee is,” Khan explained.

“Nominations will always be controversial.”

Khan is quick to notice individual brilliance within a team context and can easily spot a talented youngster within seconds. Having worked with many experienced coaches before, he is a good judge of player performance over a period of time.

“Personally, I look at the player’s character, his personality, influence and his individual ability.

“These attributes have helped modern players on a global stage.

“Goals are in short supply [in the Dstv Premiership] and players that score are high-value players.”

Both Mailula and Saleng have netted eight league goals. Mailula reached the figure in eight starts, while Saleng did it in 13 starts. Mailula has influenced games coming from the bench four times. Saleng edges Mailula on the assists column where he has provided four league assists compared to Mailula’s three.

With both players included by Hugo Broos in the preliminary squad for AFCON qualification against Liberia, it remains to be seen whether these players can replicate their form on the international scene.

In terms of other positions on the field, let’s not forget your Ronwen Williams, for example, who has played a key role in Sundowns breaking all sorts of records. There is also Teboho Mokoena who has been a key player in Rulani Mokwena’s spine. Another player deserving a mention has to be Siphiwe Given Msimango of TS Galaxy. Despite boardroom challenges, he has been instrumental in ensuring that TS Galaxy have managed a respectable defensive record.

If the league were to end today, who would Khan select first for the award?

“I will have to say Saleng.”

Also Read: George Lebese on Why Saleng is Outshining Sekgota