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Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena says Ismail Watenga is part of the first-team plans

Ismail Watenga during his loan spell at Chippa United. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Ismail Watenga during his loan spell at Chippa United. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Jun 23, 2022

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Durban - Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena has indicated that goalkeeper Ismail Watenga could be part of the club’s future first-team plans. The Ugandan shot-stopper has returned to Masandawana following a 19 month loan spell with Chippa United.

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With Kennedy Mweene and Downs first-choice goalie Denis Onyango now approaching 40-years of age, the 27-year-old Watenga could be an option for the club’s first-choice keeping role in the future.

Mokwena has challenged him to follow in the footsteps of fellow Ugandan Onyango who is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers to have played in the South African top-flight.

“Watenga’s desire should be to follow in Onyango’s footsteps because he has got huge potential and hopefully he can be at the club and play,” Mokwena is quoted to have said.

Watenga’s time in South Africa has so far come with its challenges. He played in just 10 Premiership games for Chippa last season. However, Mokwena believes that he should take inspiration from Onyango who also experienced several challenges during his earlier years in South Africa.

“It took Onyango time to stamp his position at Sundowns. We all remember that he went to Mpumalanga Black Aces and Bidvest Wits on loan before he came back and became Sundowns’ number one goalkeeper. He came back and has been very successful. Maybe Watenga’s success lies in the journey of Onyango and he will need to pick up a little bit more from what Onyango went through,” added Mokwena.

Mokwena also highlighted that the challenges that Watenga has faced so far may not be entirely his fault but also due to the structural instability that his loan club Chippa United faced.

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“He started well but did not get much playing time towards the end. I believe that was due to the change of coaches at Chippa which disturbed his momentum a bit. Watenga is a good goalkeeper with good attributes. His ability is excellent and he only needs to improve when it comes to build-up play,” said Mokwena.

With Mweene and Reyaad Pieterse still in the Downs squad serving as cover and competition for Onyango, it may not be an entirely bad idea for the reigning league champions to once again send Watenga out on loan again next season so that he can continue to adapt to South African football.

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