The South African under-23 Men’s national team captain Mbongeni Gumede took some time out to speak to SAFA Media ahead of the all important home leg qualifier of the 2015 All Africa Game clash against Sudan on Saturday 11 April 2015.
Namhla Mphelo (NM): Mbongeni, thank you for speaking to us. Firstly give us a brief about your footballing career. Secondly if you were not a footballer what would you be doing?
Mbongeni Gumede (MG): My football career so far has been a great journey because I have managed to represent my country on an international level and I am playing professional football, secondly if I was not playing soccer I would have been continuing with my studies in BCom, which I still hope to find time to complete.
NM: You went to Sudan a few weeks ago… take us through that experience and the match itself?
MG: Sudan was a great learning curve in terms of playing international football although going to the game we played under very difficult circumstances but we managed. Travelling into the continent is straining emotionally and physically but it is part of the game.
NM: Do you believe that you guys can still qualify for the All Africa Games being two goals down?
MG: Yes I am confident enough that we are ready as a team for the game tomorrow and we are going to do the country proud. Yes we are trailing by two goals but I believe we are going to turn the tables on them.
NM: What is your understanding of the All Africa Games, and do you think this is an important tournament?
MG: Yes. The All Africa Games in my understanding are like the Olympic Games but for the continent where many sporting codes are represented at these games. It is an important tournament because it would be a great preparation for us because our main goal is to qualify for the 2016 Olympics next year in Rio.
NM: You will be playing the Olympic qualifiers after the AAG qualifiers what are your thoughts about this?
MG: We know what is at stake for us to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. We know that our mandate is to qualify. Playing in the Olympics will mean a lot for all of us as players because this will enhance our careers and give us international opportunities as there will be scouts at these games.
NM: You have played for your first team at club level, how was that first experience for you?
MG: My debut was quite a challenge. Playing for the biggest team in the country is a challenge on its own. I caused a penalty in that match, it was against Bloemfontein Celtic but that is part of the game. As a defender I learnt from that mistake and I hope to never be in such a situation again in my career.
NM: As a captain of the under-23 squad what are some of the roles and responsibilities you have to undertake?
MG: My biggest role is to ensure that all the players are fine mentally, to keep the team spirit high and be the motivator on and off the field. The technical team also refers to me at the contact point between them and the players, so another role of mine is to speak on behalf of the players and be their lead whether during activities and generally.