Bloemfontein Celtic captain Ndumiso Mabena during the Bloemfontein Celtic virtual press conference on September 9, 2020 in Cape Town. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/Ashley Vlotman
Bloemfontein Celtic captain Ndumiso Mabena during the Bloemfontein Celtic virtual press conference on September 9, 2020 in Cape Town. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/Ashley Vlotman

Bloemfontein Celtic captain Ndumiso Mabena is adamant the Free State side will not abandon their ball-playing philosophy when they face league champions Mamelodi Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup final at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

The two sides like to keep the ball and Sundowns usually lean on creative stars Gaston Sirino‚ Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi, while Celtic express themselves through Phalane Lantshene‚ Tebogo Potsane and Andile Fikizolo.

“We are a team that likes to play the ball, where everyone always avails themselves on the field‚ and we have a high work rate‚” the 33-year-old Mabena said on Wednesday.

“The system we are using comes from the training ground, and there is good understanding between the players because we know how the coaches want us to play.

“I know the system very well and most of us have been together for a while now‚ and that makes it easier for me to play where I am playing.”

While Mabena is confident of upsetting Sundowns’ hopes of a rare treble‚ he admitted they are up against a talented team with a hugely experienced coach in Pitso Mosimane.

“Everybody knows they [Sundowns] are highly experienced because of their continuous participation in the Caf Champions League.

“They also have a good bunch of players, which makes them a very good team. We all saw their experience in the way they managed their league games to eventually catch up with log leaders Kaizer Chiefs.

“They did what they had to do and they managed to win the league title. That is because of the vast experience they have.”

Mabena is one of the most consistent performers at Celtic, having featured in 33 matches and contributed 11 goals and five assists in all competitions this season.

“Credit has to go to the physiotherapists‚ physical trainers and the coaches with the work they have done on us. We are professionals and we have to do the job.

“I am fortunate to have played so many games and I think the rest that we got because of Covid-19 helped. Maybe we were lucky to get that break in the middle of the season because I think it gave us a chance to recover as a team so that we can come back strong.”

Mabena has a tendency of saving his best for Sundowns and Mosimane is a huge admirer of the attacker.

“Mabena is class‚ what a player. He is ageing but he is intelligent; he can play as a No 10 and as a No 9. He is the boss there‚ they leave him to do what he wants.

“Everybody marks for him and they keep him fresh and rested. You can see why they do that because he is so classy and intelligent‚” Mosimane said of Mabena after their league meeting at Loftus earlier in 2020.

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