Luc Eymael believes Kenya’s Brian Mandela should consider leaving Mamelodi Sundowns

Luc Eymael believes Kenya’s Brian Mandela should consider leaving Mamelodi Sundowns

11:00 - 26.04.2024

Aigles du Congo head coach Luc Eymael has explained why he thinks it's time for Brian Mandela to exit Mamelodi Sundowns.

Kenyan international Brian Onyango Mandela (29) endured a frustrating day to forget as a section of Mamelodi Sundowns fans turned against him with endless boos during their 2-1 Premier Soccer League (PSL) victory against Sekhukhune United at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday.

As per Flashscore, the burly Harambee Star defender, who was making a comeback to the Brazilians' squad after a long injury lay-off, and partnered with Lebohang Maboe and Mosa Lebusa at the heart of the defense, was booed every minute he touched the ball, a move that prompted head coach Rhulani Mokwena to try to calm down the fans but to no avail.

Mandela endured a day to forget at Loftus Versfeld

Mandela was booked in the 27th minute following a clumsy foul and his evening was further tainted after he committed the foul which resulted in the penalty converted by Nigerian forward Chibuike Ohizu in the 50th minute to pull a goal back for Sekhukhune.

He was later withdrawn for Terrence Mashego in the 58th minute but Sundowns held on to win the game courtesy of first-half goals from Tashreeq Matthews and Thapelo Morena. The win enabled Sundowns to move 13 points clear at the top of the 16-team table with 56 points and stayed on course to retain the title.

Mandela’s criticism spilled over to social media, with a section of the fans calling on the team's management to do away with the player, who joined the PSL champions from Maritzburg United in 2020. “Brian (Mandela) does not deserve to play for Sundowns,” wrote Ndumiso N Ngema, while Trev NotNoah said: “Brian Onyango must be sold.”

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“Mandela and Mosa (Lebusa) are shaking at the back,” said Ntsako van Mashaba, while Fomo Lyfstyle blamed Mokwena for not listening to fans' pleas by saying: “Rhulani (Mokwena) sometimes doesn't listen to what we say about this Mandela, now he has cost us a penalty.”

However, one Lee Roy defended Mandela from the attacks saying Mokwena should not have rushed him to start against a very good Sekhukhune side. “Let’s not be harsh, remember he (Mandela) is rusty we all know he is not one of the best players but our coach needs to take the blame after throwing him in the deep end.

“Sekhukhune have been on form for the longest of games so a player like Mandela was bound to make mistakes when pressed by the likes of Mokwana, Mtambo, Mnchube...he should have been slowly given a few minutes before earning a start.”

Why defender should seek game time

Speaking after the game, Mokwena took the horn by its bull by defending Mandela. “Everybody makes mistakes at his job. But it is mistakes that help you to grow your character, you become a better person when you learn from them,” Mokwena told SuperSport TV, about Mandela’s display.

“We can never entertain such behaviours, it is completely unacceptable, these guys are giving their best and football is a game of mistakes, and some of the fans by the way (those booing Mandela) for a mistake, if you were to follow them in their own professional space and if they do their work without mistakes, believe me, you will pick up so many mistakes even in their personal lives, so as human beings why are we berated when we commit mistakes?

Mokwena added: “I make more mistakes than Brian (Mandela) ever makes, I am so mistake-prone and it is not even funny, but he knows like all my players know, that I love him, I support him, and he knows that he had my back 100% because I know he is also protecting me all the time and he knows that I have got his back, that is the only thing I can say, this players deserve they deserve so much support, so much encouragement and believe."

“Players are bound to make mistakes, and that is why you employ a coach to make corrections (when they make mistakes), it is not easy, nobody goes into the field to deliberately make mistakes, nobody and when they do make mistakes, the first thing is I make mistakes too, so you have to support them, and we are there to support them, in good or bad.”

Belgian coach Luc Eymael, who handled three different clubs in South Africa – Polokwane City, Free State Stars, and Black Leopards, believes for Mandela to save his career, he must accept the fact he does not get enough playing time and seek greener pastures elsewhere.

“It is not easy to be a regular player at Sundowns, a club that consists of many quality players, I think that even before (Tuesday's) game, Mandela had stayed on the bench or out of the team for the last 20 consecutive matches…so it is not easy for him as a player,” Eymael, who currently handles Aigles du Congo in the Democratic Republic of Congo told Flashscore News in an exclusive interview.

“I am not in his head but I also think that last season, he only played five to six matches in the entire campaign, so as a player, you have two solutions or accept your situation, for any reason…or you don’t accept and you search for a club where you will get more game time.”

Before the game against Sekhukhune, Mandela’s last appearance for Sundowns came after 20 matches and it was in the round two fixture of the CAF Champions League against TP Mazembe on December 2nd, 2023, where the Brazilians lost 1-0 at Stade TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi. Having been booked in the 28th minute, Mandela was then withdrawn in the 77th minute for Grant Kekana.

“For any player at the end of the day, despite how much money you are earning (that can make you more patient to stay on at any given club), the most important part remains game time,” stressed Eymael. “If it was me…I should prefer more game time.”

Eymael further believes Mandela’s game time against Sekhukhune was necessitated by the fact Mokwena was trying to rotate his squad in readiness for their crunch Champions League semi-final return leg fixture against Esperance Sportive de Tunis of Tunisia at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, April 26th.

Sundowns are trailing having lost the first leg 1-0 at Stade Olympique Hammadi Agrebi on April 20th.

“Against Sekhukhune, Sundowns did not play with their big stars, there was no Khuliso (Mudau), no first-choice goalkeeper Ronwen (Williams), and no Aubrey (Modiba), they have a huge game coming up and it is clear Mokwena’s mind was already fixed on the return leg against ES Tunis, he wanted to keep his star players fit and fresh for the decisive game, so that could have opened the way for Mandela to play his first game in 20 matches,” added Eymael.

Mandela should stay and fight for a starting role

Meanwhile, former Harambee Stars striker Boniface Ambani called on Mandela to stay on and fight for his place. “Two things happen, you stay to fight for your position, you redeem yourself and the second thing move... but you only make a move when you feel you’re not in good books with the coach or club officials,” Ambani told Flashcore News.

“If there is friction between the two, you look for an exit. Fans can’t make me leave a club. Only the officials, who signed me, will make me leave. So Mandela should stay as long as he can.”

Mandela, who has claimed three league titles with Sundowns - in the 2020-21, 2021-22, and last season – joined Sundowns from Maritzburg United, where he had managed 77 appearances and scored eight goals.

His first club in South Africa was Sanlam Santos where he featured for 48 times in all competitions and scored three goals. In Kenya, Mandela turned out for Premier League clubs – Posta Rangers and Tusker. Mandela has managed 22 appearances for Harambee Stars and scored two goals.