It must have felt like birthright for Lucky Mohomi, a Mamelodi-born midfielder, to represent Mamelodi Sundowns and become the maiden footballer – at least in the modern era – to join the Brazilians on the ticket of being a home-grown player. He was later joined by George Lebese who also calls Mamelodi home.
Their stories are similar: they never received any special treatment; instead, much more was demanded from the duo. The trials and tribulations of Lebese are well documented, but as for Mohomi, he had a decent start to his career at Sundowns, playing 21 games in his first season. But what followed was a frustrating stay at Chloorkop.
“George called me while he was at Kaizer Chiefs. He asked me: ‘How is the situation there because I want to come there as well?’ I told him that the competition is stiff but he could come and play and we could both offer something and show the people there is talent from Mamelodi,” said Mohomi.
Mohomi’s move to Sundowns was fuelled by both talent and sentiment. The 30-year-old had shone for Free State Stars at the heart of midfield, he could only get better under the tutelage of coach Pitso Mosimane. But he was also a good marketing ploy to draw more Sundowns’ supporters in Mamelodi by seeing one of their own don the famous yellow and blue.
“Coming from Free State Stars where I had been enjoying my football, then boom, the next day a team like Sundowns is knocking at your door. It is a great feeling but it was a decision that took a lot of time for me to think about but I just told myself that I was there because they knew I could offer so much and I believed that I was going to play and show that I deserved to be in that team. The competition was never something I would shy away from. Together with my family, I decided that I had to go there but unfortunately things did not go the way I wanted or expected.
“We have to remember that only 11 can start and all you need to do is believe that your time will come if you work hard. I was not at Sundowns by fluke, I was there because it was meant to be and all I had to do was kneel down and ask for strength from God because even in the midst of the challenges, he is the one who put me there.”
Titles earned in the stands
Even though he didn’t kick a ball for two whole seasons in competitive action, Mohomi left Sundowns with a bounty of titles that some players retire without ever touching. He left with three league titles, won the CAF Champions League and CAF Super Cup as well as made an appearance at the Fifa Club World Cup. But while he has those accolades, what he doesn’t have are stories of what he contributed in matches to achieve them.
“People always talk,” says Mohomi. “I look at the comments on social media and they often say, ‘this boy is receiving things he did not work for, he is not good enough,’ and all that. I believe that I worked hard for all those medals because I was part of the team. I would always help the team to prepare for the next game… I was always there.
“I contributed in the camps, the team meetings, whether I was playing or not, I was part of the set-up. We were pushing each other but there is a match-day squad that must be selected.”
The excitement of having been personally called by Mosimane to join the Brazilians waned when Mohomi was relegated to a spectator as he couldn’t break into Sundowns’ dominant side. “We were talking a lot at first, everything was good but I spoke a lot with coach Rhulani Mokwena and Manqoba Mngqithi,” said Mohomi.
“I did want to ask him (Mosimane) why I was not playing but the other coaches used to tell me what I needed to work hard on. When the offer to join Sundowns came, it was a call from the coach himself. I was at home with my family and they could not believe that it was the coach speaking, they were surprised just as I was.”
These experiences will come in handy for Mohomi should he ever venture into coaching as he is currently not only a SuperSport United footballer but also an important member of Mamas All-Stars – the amateur club that was founded by his mother. Mohomi chips in transport fare now and then for the club he cut his teeth at, before he was snapped up by the now defunct Mpumalanga Black Aces around 2011.
Playing for his mother’s club toughened him up mentally. He had to work twice as hard as other players so that he shows he is there on merit. That’s what he hoped to repeat at Sundowns, to show that he is beyond just a lad from Mamelodi but also a talented footballer who could hold his own against the best in the country. It didn’t work out that way, but his experiences at Sundowns and earlier at his mother’s club have been key in Mohomi’s growth.
“All-Stars plays in the SAB League in the Tshwane region. The team has been there since I was young and it’s about 25 years now into its existence. I never went to a proper development structure where there is the glitz and glam. I used to go there and play with the boys.”
Since joining Matsatsantsa a Pitori last October, without the weight of expectation and attention, Mohomi has shown, in glimpses, what caught the attention of Mosimane in his Ea Lla Koto days. In January this year, he scored his first goal for SuperSport against Swallows FC. “That goal just brought a lot of emotions and thoughts of where I come from,” he said.
“It was just to thank the Lord for taking me from where I was and bringing me where I am at this moment after three to four years. I just scored my first goal. It was just an unbelievable feeling, I did not plan for it, I did not have any celebration in mind. I just had to take it in and say this is my time and God is showing up and taking control of everything.”
With no “birthright” issues to deal with on the other side of Pretoria, Mohomi has less pressure at SuperSport but has to work even harder because he isn’t a sentimental signing. It’s nothing new for Mohomi as he has had to prove he belongs at almost every step of his football career.