For every player, there is that one standout performance that endears them in the hearts and minds of the fans and is talked about fondly for many years.
For former Kaizer Chiefs dribbling wizard and midfield maestro Jabu Mahlangu (formerly Pule) that game took place 20 years ago to the day in the Coca Cola Cup final on 24 November 2001 when he ripped Jomo Cosmos apart in a man of the match display in a 5-0 Chiefs thrashing of the Ezenkosi.
The Coca Cola Cup final was the second trophy Chiefs annexed that season in their treble-winning 2001-02 campaign.
‘Shuffle’ rolled back the years with www.kaizerchiefs.com as he reflected on that seismic afternoon when he scored a brace in a mesmerizing performance that surprisingly he does not rate as his best ever Chiefs performance.
“Whenever I am out and about fans talk to me about that match against Cosmos. Although they remember the game well, I don’t think it was a defining game during my time at Chiefs – or my best performance,” says Mahlangu.
Instead, Mahlangu feels that another game in the same competition against Manning Rangers was his standout game in the Gold and Black of Amakhosi and his eyes light up as he recalls that game in Durban against Clive Barker’s tough Rangers side.
“For me the Quarter-final in the 2001 Coca Cola Cup was my best game. We started out on the back foot. I had to take charge. Such was my style of play, if the team was down, God gave me the talent to rise to the occasion and lift the whole team up,” says an animated Mahlangu.
With Chiefs down 1-0 late in the game, Mahlangu struck a sublime long-range equalizer over the head of Rangers keeper Orwin Castel to level the scores, before super sub Shaun Permall’s quickfire brace gave Amakhosi a pulsating 3-1 win.
“The Coca Cola Cup Final will always dominate, because I scored two goals and I was man of the match, but for me that game against Rangers will always be one of my best games,” says Mahlangu.
Jabu was part of a Chiefs team in 2001-02 that won a Treble and he credits his teammates for lifting his game in that period.
“We had a talented team in 2001-02 and we crushed Cosmos in that game. Although the score makes it seem that way, it was not an easy game. They were always a physical team and when they played against Chiefs they came hard. We had to show strong character in that game. I think I was outstanding on the day, which helped the team to do well,” Mahlangu says with no shortage of the confidence he has always possessed.
From the first moment he pulled on a Chiefs first team jersey, Amakhosi fans fell in love with the precocious Daveyton boy with the blistering speed, the jinks, the feints, the trickery and the oodles of talent coursing through his veins.
“I loved driving up to the stadium and seeing the fans, who had come from all over the country and who were waiting outside the stadium overnight to see us. It was great motivation for us. People used their last money to come to the stadium. We had to recognize that and you can’t play football without fans. When we drove into the stadium, we got the vibe and belief from the fans – which gave us the motivation to do our best,” Mahlangu recalls fondly.
While the fans played their part in helping Chiefs in a difficult period, with the Coca Cola Cup final sandwiched between two legs of the CAF Cup Winners Cup Final, Jabu himself was confident that he would play a huge role against Cosmos.
“I was rooming with Cyril Nzama and when we got back from Luanda on Monday before the final I told him that I will score on Saturday and will be man of the match and that we will win. I trained well and I was fit, which gave me extra motivation,” says Mahlangu.
He was also given some special instructions from then Chiefs coach Muhsin Ertugral, who told him “enjoy yourself and put Kaizer Chiefs first and you will do well”.
Mahlangu was complimentary of the more experienced players in the team in that era, who played their part in helping Chiefs be successful at the time.
“We had Doctor Khumalo, Thabo Mooki, we had good characters who were helping us youngsters to focus on each game”.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of that final against Cosmos, Jabu does often think about the game and is proud to share the memories with some of his family members, especially his son.
“I still smile about the game. I watched that game with my son. He was young and did not understand why people always wanted to take pictures with me. After watching that game he said to me ‘Daddy I am so proud of you, you were killing these guys, you were so quick’,” Mahlangu says with pride.
In concluding Jabu paid tribute to the Chiefs team from that 2001-02 campaign.
“We had a good team a good technical team, without that team I would not have achieved what I did in that tournament. I was the man of the match in the final, was player of the tournament and scored the goal of the tournament, all with the help of my teammates and coaches,” says Mahlangu.
With four goals in four games in the tournament, Jabu wrote his name in the history books, along with his Treble-winning teammates.