Johannesburg — Mamelodi Sundowns’ co-coach Rulani Mokwena has backed midfielder Andile Jali to be one of the contenders for the coveted Footballer of the Season award following his impressive outing for the Brazilians in the first half of the season.
Jali has enjoyed an impressive season with the Brazilians so far after being a colossal figure in the heartbeat of their midfield - where he starred as they also clinched their first ever MTN8 after they defeated Cape Town City in the final.
Jali has also been a consistent figure in the DStv Premiership campaign as the Brazilians wrapped up the first half of the season sitting comfortably at the summit of the standings with 44 points - thanks to 13 wins, five draws and one loss.
His effort’s didn’t go unnoticed as he racked up multiple Man of the Match accolades. But it was in December that he stood head and shoulders above the rest of the players in top-flight football, winning the Player of the Month award.
Mokwena, who was also voted as the Coach of the Month for December alongside co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi on Monday, believes that Jali’s form has put him in a firm position to be considered for the Footballer of the season accolade.
“AJ has been phenomenal so far this season. His level of consistency, ability to play from a psychological perspective, with the same engagement and attachment even after good performances has been exceptional,” Mokwena said.
“Giving performances where you are getting averages of seven or eight for every match this season is probably the most difficult thing in football for a player. But he needed to be given praise for all the hard work (that that he’s put in).”
“But we continue to work in this way. And maybe the debate will start. Because I am surprised that with AJ and Mshishi’s (Themba Zwane) consistency, the debate of the Footballer of the Season hasn't started. I’m very surprised.”
“Mokwena added: "But hopefully now that AJ has won the Footballer of the Month award, rightfully so, maybe we, together with the media, can start (asking) whether Andile Jali is the Footballer of the Season so far this season?”
The reigning champions might have gone into the break with a healthy 14-point lead in the league but Mngqithi says that wasn’t easy to achieve, given the fact that they had a congested schedule in December, requiring a lot from the players.
“This was one period that required a lot of rest and a lot of recuperation from the players. It’s always a challenge. When you are having a lot of matches in between, you never have time to rest. But our boys did very well,” Mngqithi said.
Meanwhile, Kaizer Chiefs’ midfielder Nkosingiphile Ngcobo walked away with the Goal of the Month award for December following his beautiful curler during their 2-0 win over Maritzburg United in their last league game of the year late last month.
“We closed the 2021 calendar year on a high as a team. We also worked very hard. We played for one another as players. And I think we performed well as a team. We look forward to keeping the same tempo and attitude,” Ngcobo said.