Ntokozo Gumede
Football Writer
3 minute read
2 Jun 2022
3:35 pm

How Maema’s father warned him against joining Sundowns

Ntokozo Gumede

"He was just worried about what he saw when other players were going there", says the Sundowns midfielder.

Neo Maema (left) and Lebohang Maboe (right) of Mamelodi Sundowns. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

If it were someone else, Neoma Maema would gloat in an ‘I told you so’ moment, but because it is his father who was the first one to warn him against joining Mamelodi Sundowns, he will just let this one slide and continue to represent his family with pride.

Thabiso Maema, a one-time non-professional football player, was concerned when Sundowns came knocking at his door for the services of his son, Neo, after the heir dazzled in the colours of the now defunct Bloemfontein Celtic. He was unsure whether it would be the right move for his son to take, seeing how many footballers have had a tough time at the club after joining with high expectations.

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But a return of an impressive 24 DStv Premiership games and 11 cup games paired with a treble in the bag, Maema senior is a proud father and his son is happy to have proven him wrong.

“People were saying to me ‘you are not going to play’. ‘What if you are going to sit on the bench like other players’. Other players came to the club, went for loans and they struggled to get into the team but that was more of motivation for me because I believe in my capabilities and there is still more for me to provide to the team,” said Maema.

“It was not just people but even my father said I might sit on the bench and he asked me if I was really sure about going to Sundowns. It was not about proving my father wrong. He was just worried about what he saw when other players were going there and as a father, this is the best possible advice you can give to your son.

“I told him that I will go and we will see because I came to Sundowns to compete against the best and take my football to the next level. Right now he is very proud but he feels exactly like I feel and that is I can still grow and do more. The aim is not to be satisfied, you should always be hungry,” he added.

Maema confessed to be one of the many footballers who grew up supporting Kaizer Chiefs and he lists Amakhosi great, Thabo Mooki, as one of the players he admired. At some point in his development, Maema played in a more central role in midfield and modeled his game around that of “Tsiki Tsiki”. He says it is his style of play that made him join Downs, insisting that he knew from just watching Downs play that he would fit it.

“Adapting from Celtic and coming to Sundowns was not easy. There were high expectations of winning every match and bringing trophies. When I watched Sundowns, I could tell that they are playing the same style of play as me and I knew that I would fit into the team,” said Maema.

“Coming here was a decision of wanting to win titles individually and people were saying I shouldn’t go now, maybe go after two years but the most important thing is that I took this decision is that I took it myself and that was because I needed to take my football to the next level and that level I could only get it at Sundowns.”