Winning at Athlone Stadium is something special, says Diadora captain

Diadora FC captain Tshepiso Tlhapi collects the winners’ trophy following Saturday’s Coke Cup finals at Athlone Stadium. Picture: Fuad Esack

Winning in front of a bumper crowd at a packed Athlone Stadium was something special, says Tshepiso “Shabba” Tlhapi, captain of newly-crowned Coke Cup champions Diadora FC, who lifted the trophy after a 1-0 win against Bonteheuwel’s Goulburn Athletic AFC, last Saturday.

A well-travelled journey man, Tlhapi, 37, from Philippi, has had spells with various top flight clubs, including Orlando Pirates, Bloemfontein Celtics, Thanda Royal Zulu, FC Cape Town, CPT All stars, The Magic, Hout Bay and Young Bafana, but was at a lost for words following his side’s victory.

“Playing a final in a full stadium like Athlone, for an amateur team, it was so special,” he said.

“It was a good final and a tough one because the team we played gave their best, but we managed to score through a nice build up from our right side and some individual brilliance from Siya Madikane to set up Jerry Mxabo to give us a nice goal.

Diadora FC’s Jerry Mxabo and his teammates make their way to the podium to collect their winners medal and trophy. Mxabo was also named player of the match. Picture: Fuad Esack

Like Tlhapi, man of the moment and Coke Cup player of the match, Mxabo, 30, from Brown’s Farm in Philippi, is also in his second season with the Hanover Park-based club.

“I’d like to regard myself as a goal scorer, not a striker,” he said jokingly.

First to admit that it was not their best performance, Mxabo and co can be forgiven for offering a collective sigh of relief when the referee blew the final whistle. But, like the Springboks did against England at the weekend, the result was all that mattered, even if it was just a point separating the two sides.

“To be honest, it wasn’t a good game from us as team,” Mxabo said, “but with the quality we have, we knew they would never score, even if we were to play hours.

Goulburn’s Yakeen Langeveldt, left, and Diadora’s Thembelihle Mxunjeni challenge for the ball during their side’s senior men’s Coke Cup final. Picture: Fuad Esack

“We let them do exactly what we wanted, force them wide so they can cross the ball back and we play from there.The goal I scored came from an offside, they came from our left side and we played quickly to their left side and they were caught of guard,” he said.

Diadora FC’s Jerry Mxabo slips one past the defender during his side’s 1-0 win in last week’s Coke Cup final at Athlone Stadium. Picture: Conray Swail

He said coming in as champions brought some pressure as they were considered the team to beat right from the get go. “We played every game as if it was our last game. Everyone wanted to beat us and that was all the motivation we needed,” he said.

Much like his counterparts, Mxabo was also quick to thank their supporters as well as their rivals’ fans.

“The made all the difference,” he said. “Wow it was nice seeing communities supporting their clubs.”