Nhlanhla Shabalala - Fact File

Nhlanhla Shabalala Ready To Revive His Career At AmaZulu

Nhlanhla Shabalala parted ways with Ajax Cape Town after spending over a decade at the Ikamva-based side since graduating from the club’s junior ranks. Shabba or Mbokodo as the player is known in football talks about the ups and downs during his long stay at the Urban Warriors.

Personal Information
Full names: Enoch Nhlanhla Shabalala
Date of birth: 16  December 1985
Place of birth: Embalenhle, Mpumalanga
Jersey no: 18
Nickname: Shabba/Mbokodo
Position: Midfielder
Club: AmaZulu
Previous Teams: Paradise FC, Remember FC, Early Birds FC, Ajax Cape Town Juniors, Ajax Cape Town
Honours: 2006 Telkom Knockout runner-up, 2007 Absa Cup winner, 2007/08 League runner-up, 2007 Mangaung cup winner, 2008 Telkom knockout winner, 2008 Mangaung Cup winner, 2009 Telkom Knockout runner-up, 2010/11 League runner up (all with Ajax).

Hola Mbokodo, you left Ajax after spending over a decade at the club. You must have a lot to say about your time there. How would you sum up your stay in the Mother City?
First and foremost, I would like to thank Ajax Cape Town for giving me the platform and the opportunity and developing me to get where I am today. They advised me where I was going wrong and right and helped me to be the man I am today. There are many people there that played an influential role in my career. George and John Comitis looked after me very well when I was there and although we didn’t have much time together, the new management was also very good to me. I didn’t have any issues with them. I’m grateful for what I learned there and the respect they showed me throughout my time at Ajax but in life things have to change at some point.

You have been through the ranks at Ajax and have seen a number of youngsters go to greener pastures. While you remained at the club. How do you look at this?
I’m happy for them. As footballers in a squad of say 28, every one of us wants to go overseas. In reality however, we all know that it is not going to happen for all of us. Whenever I look at pictures on the wall at Ajax, there are U11, U13, U15, U17, and U19 teams. They get promoted from one division to another annually. On average only two of them get to play in the PSL. Maybe two others go to the NFD. Some are still in the ABC Motsepe league (second division) because not all players make it. So I’m lucky that I’m in the PSL and still playing after all these years. My dream is to go overseas at some point. It’s never too late, anything can happen. I wish them all the best but I wish I would find myself in the same position as them.

Did playing for a selling club affect your progress in any way?
The more the team changes, the more you have to adjust. The new guys have to understand that if Shabba goes to the left, he either wants the ball in space or at his feet. I won’t make excuses and say that it hampered my progress because we could have kept the same team only for things to turn out exactly the same way. It is not a reflection of who and where I am at the moment.

Was there ever a time when you felt like calling it a day due to the recurring injuries?
No. Generally, I’m a happy guy. I have got a very good support structure from family and friends. My friends understand football and they always encourage me. It never crossed my mind because age is still on my side. Maybe if I was getting those injuries at the age of 33 or so, I would have thought about quitting. If you’re hit with injuries at 24 or 26, thinking about quitting is a crime. I’m still committed and loving the game. I’m hungry for game time.

Many labelled you as the next best thing to come out of Ikamva but you never really lived up to your potential.
I wouldn’t say that I didn’t live up to my potential. I can safely say that in the time I spent at Ajax, I gave them my all. From what I know, they are highly appreciated with the effort I gave to the team even    though I probably didn’t get to the level I was expected to be at. But I didn’t give those guys anything less than my best and they never appreciated me any less. The job that I had to do was done whenever God allowed in terms of being injury-free. I gave everything I could whenever I was on the park. It’s one of the things that happen in football. I’m not going to cry over spilt milk.

I’m at AmaZulu now and it’s time to revive my career. Maybe when I was fit I didn’t push myself enough where I could challenge for a regular place and possibly get a spot in Bafana Bafana. This is the time. I know it’s easy to say things than do them, but we can never live without hope.

Shabba, all the best for the New Year.
Thank you, you too.