Prince just happy to be playing again

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Bafana are scheduled to swing back into action in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers when they face Cameroon away on March 26 - and then, the return leg, at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on March 29.

But, considering the level of performance in recent weeks, including a glut of goals, from Ajax Cape Town striker Prince Nxumalo, don’t be surprised if he’s included in Bafana’s squad for the two qualifiers against Cameroon.

The 25-year-old had already caught the eye of Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba last year, when he was called up to the national squad in September, but it was around that time that the player’s issues with epilepsy started.

He withdrew from the Bafana squad, and was subsequently given a lengthy break by Ajax coach Roger de Sa.

It has been a tough road for Nxumalo. On two separate occasions last year, he broke down before a game, experiencing a series of epileptic seizures. He even spent a while in intensive care. For a while, there were suggestions that his burgeoning career might be over.

But he’s come back with a bang this year. With his illness now controlled by medication, and on a strict programme, Nxumalo’s form has inspired Ajax. It’s not just the regularity of the goals, it’s the quality thereof. It’s not just the goals, it’s also his overall contribution to the team that has been so impressive.

After a three-game winning run on the road, Ajax are back in action on Wednesday when they take on Free State Stars in a PSL fixture at Goble Park in Bethlehem (kickoff 6pm) - and Nxumalo is looking to continue banging in the goals. He’s now just two strikes behind the PSL’s leading scorer, Zambian Collins Mbesuma of Mpumalanga Black Aces.

From Durban, it was to the Mother City that Nxumalo first came to seek football success. He joined Parow-based First Division side FC Cape Town in 2010, where he quickly caught the eye. His rise to prominence in the lower league resulted in a transfer to top-flight team SuperSport United two years later. He struggled to get going in Pretoria and, as a result, De Sa snapped up the striker for Ajax last year. It’s turned out to be an inspired signing by the Capetonians.

Asked about the upcoming announcement of a Bafana squad, Nxumalo said: “Look, I don’t know, it’s not up to me. I’m just playing my game and, if I get picked, then I’ll be very happy. But I’m not thinking about it too much.

“After the medical issues I’ve had, I’m just glad to be playing again. It was tough at the time, going through what I did, but I was helped by my family and the club. As a result, it didn’t affect me mentally at all and, as soon as I was fit and ready, I was determined to get my career going again.”

As for the fixture against the Free Staters on Wednesday, Nxumalo is fully focused on putting the team first and not concerning himself too much about individual accolades.

“Free State are a good side and I’m sure they will be very competitive, and very difficult to beat,” said the in-form Ajax striker. “They recently beat Orlando Pirates, so we know they have quality…

“But, for me, the main idea is just to keeping doing my best for the team. If I happen to be among the PSL’s leading scorers, then that’s a bonus.”

But Ajax coach De Sa couldn’t hide his admiration for the manner in which the striker has responded to adversity.

“Prince got two great goals against Polokwane and he has been outstanding since getting back in this year,” said De Sa. “He’s a real quality striker and his goals at the weekend weren’t simple tap-ins, they were fantastic individual efforts.

“If you look at what he has achieved and how he has performed over the last few weeks and then think that, just a few months ago, he was in a hospital bed and not sure whether he would play again… With Nathan (Paulse) out injured, we needed someone to take responsibility up front - and Prince has done so brilliantly.”

The PSL's leading marksmen

12 - Collins Mbesuma (MP Black Aces)

10 - Prince Nxumalo (Ajax Cape Town)

8 - Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundowns); Thobani Mncwango (Polokwane City)

Cape Argus

Original source: Prince just happy to be playing again

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