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Thabo Mngomeni recalls tough days at Orlando Pirates

Thabo Mngomeni is still revered by Orlando Pirates fans, but he admits his early days as a Buccaneer was tough - and that his salary was always a problem.

‘Thibos’ spent four years between 1998 and 2002 donning the black and white jersey, during which times he also starred for Bafana Bafana, famously scoring CAF’s Goal of the Year for an overhead kick against Congo in 2000.

But Mngomeni says his salary hardly reflected performances, telling “I know most people think, ‘No, Thibos was making money at Pirates’, not knowing Thibos was making nothing.

“Can you believe that when I was playing for Pirates, people who were bench-warmers there were earning double my salary? My highest salary at Pirates was R13 000 in the 1999/00 season.”

Mngomeni adds that coming into the Pirates team as a Xhosa from Cape Town also caused some initial problems.

“Like at any team when I got there, players had already formed groups and I was the only one speaking Xhosa, I knew nothing about SeSotho,” he says.

“I arrived on a Wednesday, I was introduced to the players. So Thursday it's my first training session. Friday the players who were going to camp were announced. When my name was announced, everyone grumbled.

“On match-day in the changing room when the starting team was announced the same thing happened, again people started grumbling and looking at each other.

"You could see in my first games there was an attitude you see of people not wanting to pass me the ball, but quickly I ended up being accepted because football language is the same.”


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