Some have argued it is waaaaay too early for Erick Mathoho to have earned a recall to the national team, but ‘Tower’ has got his groove back.
Apparently when he heard the news that he’d made interim Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki’s team for the friendly match away to Zambia next month, the defender hardly got carried away – simply acknowledging it’s step one of his comeback.
It’s a big deal for Mathoho to return to the international stage, where he has to date amassed 34 caps and a single goal. But it all fell apart two years ago when – playing for the national team – ‘Tower’ was sent off in the shock defeat to Cape Verde in Praia, a fixture that put Bafana’s chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in jeopardy and subsequently ended them when they lost the return leg in Durban.
Then, the defender admitted to this journalist that he’d made a clumsy error, one that would eventually cost him his place in the national team for two years!
His club form for Kaizer Chiefs also dipped, and, unsurprisingly, he dropped down the pecking order of defenders. Mathoho was nowhere near being considered for the AFCON squad.
But coach Ernst Middendorp, who arrived at the Chiefs in December last year when the player was nursing an injury, has always bemoaned the unavailability of a player as good a Mathoho in his team. His return would feel like buying a new defender, he argued in the build-up to the new 2019/20 season.
Mathoho has already rewarded him with two goals in two matches, although one of them – against Highlands Park in a 3-2 win – took a wicked deflection to beat Marlon Heugh and become the winning goal for Chiefs.
Another solitary striker against Black Leopards a week later was much more precise, and probably confirmed that ‘Tower’ has got his groove back! There is the small matter of also playing to pretty much save his job at Chiefs – Mathoho’s contract will run out at the end of the season, but word is that talks are underway to have it renewed.
Here’s to hoping it’s no fluke that the player has bounced back…