When Neo Maema joined the Mamelodi Sundowns earlier in the previous season, many raised an eyebrow and wondered if the low-key player would cut him from the star-studded side of the Sundowns. But about 10 months ahead, Maema has played more games than some of the club’s senior players, scoring some eye-catching goals in the process.
It is always said that playing for a club that is the current flagship of South African football when it comes to representation in the Caf Champions League comes with a lot of pressure, and the former Bloemfontein Celtic player saw that from the start when made his DStv Premiership debut for Masandawana.
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“It was very difficult. A game comes to mind: it was the second game of the season against Chippa United and we played 0-0. It was then that I felt the pressure that comes from playing for the Sundowns because a draw is like a defeat when you’re at the Sundowns, ”said Maema.
“I started the game and it was my first start. After that I missed two games before I could play again and that enlightened me and I saw that the level is very high at the Sundowns and it comes with the pressure because we play a lot of football matches. When you play and don’t perform, you come back online, ”she added.
Not many players can claim to have fallen into the Sundowns pecking order and recovered immediately. Apparently it takes time to get back to the squad, which is probably why the likes of Tiyani Mabunda ended up leaving the pitch to take on other responsibilities at the club. Kermit Erasmus, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Lesedi Kapinga and Gaston Sirino can all echo Maema’s sentiment.
In this club anyone can join and play and the team will continue to do well. So next season will be more focused on focusing and pushing myself to the limit so I can start more games. When you play consistently, chances are you do well and if you don’t play, it’s very difficult, ”said the 26-year-old.