FREE State Stars rookie Edward Manqele and Dutch mastermind Johan Neeskens of Mamelodi Sundowns were selected as the Absa Premiership Player of the Month and Absa Premiership Coach of the Month respectively for the months of February and March.
Due to the disruption caused by the African Cup of Nations that was hosted in January in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon the judges who were convened to choose the winning recipients were asked to focus their efforts on the months of February and March while also casting their minds back to early December where a few matches took place before the Absa Premiership went into recess.
There is little doubt that Edward Manqele is a deserved winner after bursting onto the Absa Premiership where he has made many people sit up and take notice of his goal-scoring prowess. The Randfontein-born marksman currently leads the Absa Premiership scoring charts with 11 strikes to his name. His form has not gone unnoticed by South Africa head coach Pitso Mosimane who rewarded Manqele with his first cap in the goalless draw against Senegal at the Moses Mabhida stadium in February.
Mamelodi Sundowns are enjoying an unbeaten patch in their season and have only tasted defeat twice all campaign while arguably playing the best football in the Absa Premiership under the astute leadership of Johan Neeskens. The former Netherlands and Barcelona assistant manager has easily acclimatized to the rigors of life in South Africa and has molded his charges into a cohesive unit, who are easy on the eye and have set their sights firmly on another Absa Premiership title charge.
As recipients of the Absa Premiership Player and Coach of the Month for February/March, each walked away with R10 000, courtesy of Absa Card, and four “ Dreambags” filled with football equipment to donate to a school of their choice.
Convenor of the judging panel, Farouk Khan, noted Manqele’s ability to score goals and also spoke highly of his work-ethic. “Free State Stars are not one of the fashionable outfits, who are a blessed with an abundance of talent that are able to create chances on a whim for their strikers. Edward has needed to combine his work-rate and his power with a clinical eye for goal and he has been reaping the rewards. There was no doubt that Manqele was the standout nominee in the selection process for Absa Premiership Player of the Month,” concluded Khan.
Notables nominees for Absa Premiership Player of the Month included Moroka Swallows mercurial midfield maestro David Mathebula who has played an instrumental role in a resurgent ‘Birds’ outfit. There were also mentions for Mamelodi Sundowns midfield playmaker Teko Modise and experienced Orlando Pirates striker Benni McCarthy who is enjoying a productive first Absa Premiership campaign with the ‘Buccaneers’.
The debate for who would walk away with the honours in the Absa Premiership Coach of the Month was a more keenly contested fight with several coaches coming into the reckoning following impressive showings in domestic league action. Free State Stars coach Steve Khompela has given his charges an outside chance to taste success and lift the Absa Premiership trophy. Moroka Swallows experienced coach Gordon Igesund, who knows what it takes to win titles at this level, has overseen a period of transition at the club and has used his acumen in the transfer market to shape a competitive outfit that will also have a say in the 2011/2012 season.
“While Mamelodi Sundowns can be accused of dropping points and drawing too many matches it shouldn’t be taken lightly that they justifiably sit atop the Absa Premiership standings as the team has played the best football in the league while their superior goal difference is a key indicator of just how well they have done over the course of the season thus far,” said Farouk Khan.
Absa Sponsorship Manager, Steward Masela, was naturally pleased for the respective winners. “The Absa Premiership is shaping up into what promises to be a keenly contested fight for the league title between some of South Africa’s biggest clubs. There is no doubting the competitive nature of the Absa Premiership and the coming months will make for a riveting spectacle. Edward Manqele and Johan Neeskens are worth winners of the Player and Coach of the Month for February/March for their exploits and deserve this opportunity to be singled out for their contributions in this fascinating season.”