Eleven years after exploding onto the scene as the PSL’s top goal scorer in the 2004/ 2005 season with Kaizer Chiefs, Collins Mbesuma is once more leading the goal charts, this time with Black Aces.
Its early days still, but Mbesuma has certainly made his intentions clear with a blistering start to the campaign, the Zambian having netted five goals in six Absa Premiership matches, while also scoring for his country recently in an AFCON qualifier.
Mbesuma’s 25 league goals (plus a further 10 in cup competition) in his first full season with Chiefs a decade ago, marks him down as a legendary figure in AmaKhosi’s history books. It also remains the highest goal tally in a season since the formation of the PSL in 1996. (Daniel Madau – 24, Wilfred Mugeyi – 22, and Pollen Ndlanya – 21, come in next on the list).
Barely out of his teens, the burly Mbesuma simply proved too strong for many a PSL defender as he used his powerful frame to shield the ball from tackles, speeding goal-wards before making finishing on his lethal left foot appear like second nature.
The kid from Luanshya in rural Zambia was soon packing his bags for the not-so-sunny south coast of England after signing for then-Premiership side Portsmouth in 2005. The next few years, spent first at Portsmouth, then on loan at C.S. Marítimo (Portugal) and finally Bursaspor in Turkey, failed to see Mbesuma’s career take off as many had expected it would, the striker battling to adapt to life abroad.
He was back in South Africa for the 2008/ 2009 season, but ‘Ntofontofo’ failed to find his old form at Mamelodi Sundowns and then Moroka Swallows, before a move to Golden Arrows reignited a flagging career, 18 goals in 43 matches resulting in a transfer to Orlando Pirates, where although he encountered some injury problems, the player had a fair measure of success in terms of overall game-time.
Approaching 30, it was then on to Mpumalanga Black Aces, where Mbesuma played in all but one of their league games last season, scoring six goals. The question now is, can he keep up the red-hot form in front of goal and help AmaZayoni to challenge for the championship.
After having endured so many twists and turns in his career, one gets the impression now that the Chipolopolo marksman is happy just to be playing regular football and is not prepared to get side-tracked by any overly lofty goals.
“The team has been doing well so far, and I’m happy that I have been able to do my job by scoring some goals,” he told PSL.co.za. “I wouldn’t put it down to anything special, it has just been a case of us doing everything as we should have in pre-season. We started early with pre-season so everyone in the squad is in very good physical condition. We have started as we hoped to, and now we plan to keep fighting for a top three finish to the league while trying to see if we can win some silverware in the cup.”
The 31-year-old has been in football for 13 years now, but says he has not even contemplated when he may start to think about hanging up his boots – he is clearly enjoying his football too much for that.
“I’ve just reached my 30’s, so I think I still have several years ahead of me, I’m feeling good and strong, and I thank God for this. I’m enjoying myself at Aces, we have a very good team, there is good management, and it’s a place where I can focus on my game, a perfect platform for me.”
Mbesuma has worked under some top managers in his time, and although he is hesitant to list his favourite former boss, he says he has a good bond with his current coach, Muhsin Ertugral.
“I don’t want to talk about my former coaches, I’m just happy to be at a club with a good coach at this moment. I like working with Muhsin, he’s passionate, he wants us to win every game. Sometimes he shouts yes, but it’s always for a reason, he won’t shout at the players if we’re doing what we are supposed to be doing.”
One certainly gets the impression with Mbesuma that it’s only the present that counts; while loathe to predict what the future holds, he is also not one to linger in the past and does not dwell on his glory days with Chiefs. There was however one player that made an unforgettable impact on him after arriving in South Africa all those years ago.
“I’m not really one for looking back,” he said. “I also don’t have any regrets in my career, everything happened for a reason and I’m glad to be where I am right now. I left Chiefs many years ago, but of course I will always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me, it was an amazing experience playing in that team, and one person that stood out for me back then was the late John Shoes Moshoeu, he talked to me a lot off the pitch, he encouraged me when I first arrived at the club.”