Home » All eyes on Cassius: A sports science diploma, a Bafana call-up, but ‘no rush’ to Europe for Mailula | Sport

All eyes on Cassius: A sports science diploma, a Bafana call-up, but ‘no rush’ to Europe for Mailula | Sport

Cassius Mailula of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrate the goal with Rulani Mokwena (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

  • Cassius Mailula could potentially make his Bafana Bafana debut against Liberia following his maiden call-up to the senior national team.
  • The Limpopo-born starlet has been included in Hugo Broos’s 23-man squad following his red-hot form for Mamelodi Sundowns.
  • The 21-year-old has been linked with a move to France.

The simplest way of getting noticed by Bafana Bafana head coach Hugo Broos is by both scoring and assisting in goals, and Mamelodi Sundowns star Cassius Mailula’s statistics are hard to ignore.

The attack-minded midfielder has been in superb form for the Brazilians, netting 14 goals and with eight assists in 22 appearances across all competitions for the DStv Premiership champions-elect.

Mailula made the cut to be included in Broos’s 23-man squad for crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Liberia on Friday and next Tuesday.

Drafted into the Sundowns academy at 16, Mailula has represented South Africa at various levels. His timely call-up to the national side was a welcome addition to a team that has starved of goals, and Mailula has plenty in his arsenal.

Mailula credits his footballing trajectory to his coaches and their sage advice as his soaring career takes flight.

“Credit goes to development coaches for always encouraging us to also focus on our studies because you’ll never know where football can take you,” he told SAFA media.

“It was good that I finished my matric and went to TUT (Tshwane University of Technology) in 2019, and by God’s grace, I’ve finished my diploma in sports science.

“Hopefully, one day, I will try to study something (else).”

Meanwhile, the 21-year-old initially thought his Bafana call-up was for the national under-23 squad, but Broos exercised his right to name Mailula in the senior team.

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“For me, it came as a surprise because I didn’t expect to pop up so early. I thought that I’ll be actually in the U23 [squad], but for me, it was actually good that someone out there can see my hard work.

“I really did not expect it so soon. I’ve always wanted this to happen, but so soon is really a dream.

“Sometimes I think I’m still dreaming, like today being on the same pitch as Percy Tau. That has been a dream of mine, and it all came true.

“They say dreams do actually come true [and] for me it’s always been something that I wanted.”

He added: “I know this is big for me, I understand the pressure that comes with it and I’m open to learning as I go along.

“I won’t be too hard on myself knowing that this is my first call-up, but I am going to push hard and give it my best. It is why I’m here. I, too, am dreaming of the Afcon come January next year.”

Bafana Bafana 23-man squad:

Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams (Mamelodi Sundowns), Veli Mothwa (AmaZulu), Ricardo Goss (SuperSport United)

Defenders: Sydney Mobbie (Sekhukhune United), Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates), Nkosinathi Sibisi (Orlando Pirates), Thapelo Morena (Mamelodi Sundowns), Aubrey Modiba (Mamelodi Sundowns), Grant Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns), Mothobi Mvala (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siyanda Xulu (Turan-Tovuz IK, Azerbaijan)

Midfielders: Miguel Timm (Orlando Pirates), Teboho Mokoena (Mamelodi Sundowns), Luke Le Roux (Vargerb Bois, Sweden), Sphephelo Sithole (Belenenses, Portugal)

Forwards: Monnapule Saleng (Orlando Pirates), Lyle Foster (Burnley, England), Mihlali Mayambela (Aris Limassol, Cyprus), Bongokuhle Hlongwane (Minnesota, USA), Themba Zwane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Zakhele Lepasa (SuperSport United), Percy Tau (Al Ahly, Egypt), Cassius Mailula (Mamelodi Sundowns)

*NB: Njabulo Blom was replaced with Miguel Timm

‘I don’t need to rush’

It is not unusual for an in-form player to capture the attention of South Africa’s football-loving nation, but Mailula has generated interest from as far as Europe too.

According to widespread reports, clubs in France are interested in luring the Limpopo-born native to the western European nation.

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Bafana boss Broos has publicly urged Mailula to remain in South Africa and continue his development at the Brazilians’ Chloorkop base, where he is flourishing.

Mailula disclosed that any ideas of a move outside of South Africa in the coming months are on hold, but he is not oblivious to the attention coming his way.

“I have a lot of learning and growing to do, so I’m not too pressured on an overseas move. I’m just taking it in my stride.

“I want to enjoy scoring, it is what I love, and for as long as I’m in the national set-up or with my team, I will apply myself. I know that I’m still a young player with promise.

“I think in that situation, everything will happen at its own time. I don’t need to rush anything. If it has to happen too early, it will be a problem.

“But for me, I think I don’t have to rush anything. If it happens after a season, it’s also fine with me.

“For me, it will happen at the right time. For now, my focus is just at Sundowns and to also help the national team.”

South Africa host the West African nation on Friday, 24 March (18:00) at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, and play again four days later on Tuesday, 28 March (18:00 SA time) in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.