Innocent is April's Jet Rookie
Thursday May 04 2006
Pirates youngster Innocent Mdledle is another star in the making, having been nominated by fans as the PSL JET CLUB ROOKIE OF THE MONTH for April, which also sees him automatically qualify for this year's prestigious JET CLUB ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Award.
Over many years South African football has been able to attract a number of excellent foreigners. The likes of Ernest Chirwali (Mtawali), Benjamin Mwaruwari and Peter Ndlovu spring to mind.
One player who is regarded as one of the best players to have played in the country, but probably never received the recognition that he would have - had he played for most of his career for one of the big clubs in Gauteng - is Zimbabwean defender Innocent Chikoya.
The likeable Zimbabwean showed some of the glimpses of greatness during his stint at Orlando Pirates and when he left the 'Buccaneers' many a fan dreaded what would happen to their defence.
And it is true that Pirates have struggled to fill the left back position since Innocent Chikoya's departure - that is, until this season when Innocence was back.
Not quite actually, as it was another Innocent who was flying up the left flank in the black and white.
Innocent Mdledle is the youngster who has made the left back position his own and his form has impressed football experts and journalists, all of whom have been quick to sing his praises.
But it is not only football experts who have taken a liking to the new Innocent on the Pirates flank - football fans, too, have recognised his skill and it is not surprising that they voted for him as the April JET CLUB ROOKIE OF THE MONTH.
In terms of the competition, any player competing his first season in professional football in South Africa or who has made five or less appearances for a South African club in the past is classed as a Rookie. It makes no difference what age he is, nor from which country he has come. It is also irrelevant whether he has played professional football in another country. What makes him qualify for the competition is the fact that he is new to South African soccer.
Every month a panel of distinguished journalists nominates five players who fulfil the above criteria for the JET CLUB ROOKIE OF THE MONTH Award.
These finalists are then made public and fans throughout the country are invited to call-in with their choice. Five lucky callers receive R500 in shopping vouchers from Jet Club, while the winning JET CLUB ROOKIE receives R5,000 and automatically qualifies as a finalist for the JET CLUB ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Award. The winner of this prestigious Award wins a whooping R50,000.
The 20-year-old defender joined Pirates from People Bank Spurs at the beginning of the season and already in the Vodacom Challenge showed glimpses of what he could do.
Wearing the number 19 jersey for Pirates, 'Sthe', as he is known by his fans, has not only helped the club defensively, he has also managed to be a part of the attacking style of play that has taken Pirates close to league honours.
His first goal came in the 2-1 victory against Ajax Cape Town in a match in which he was outstanding.
Mdledle is a home-based player who prefers staying at home eating pap and meat and listening to R&B music to seeking the bright lights of clubs and bars which already have claimed many a footballing victim.
Football fans are not the only ones who have taken note of his performances, as the national selectors have called him up into the Under-23 side that is preparing their assault on reaching the Beijing Olympics. It was not his first representative game as he also played for the USSASA national team.
He counts Real Madrid's Brazilian Roberto Carlos as his favourite international player and it is not surprising that he models his own play on that of the World Cup winner.
And as his forerunner at Pirates - Innocent Chikoya - is winding down his career at Moroka Swallows, Mdledle's career seems busy taking off and it seems a sure bet that the MARCH JET CLUB ROOKIE OF THE MONTH title will not be the only thing that he wins during his career.
He also becomes a finalist in the JET CLUB ROOKIE OF THE YEAR competition and stands in line to win all the terrific prizes that go with it.