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Zanele Nhlapo: The rock-solid leader

Captains are beyond a doubt an essential part of a team, and often they lead by example in terms of spirit and commitment.

And inspirational skippers such as Zanele Nhlapo have an unquestionable passion for the beautiful game and give their best all the time.

Nhlapo, also known as ‘Mazet’, is a no-nonsense commander, and she led Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies to a historic treble last campaign with flair.

Banyana Ba Style clinched the inaugural Caf Women’s Champions League, Cosafa Caf Women’s Champions League qualifiers and the Hollywoodbets Super League.

The Tshwane giants were primarily praised for their attacking prowess, but their impressive defensive performance ensured that they returned from Egypt with the Champions League trophy.

The Nhlapo-inspired backline ended the tournament in Cairo without conceding a single goal. And last season, Sundowns Ladies played 36 games, kept 21 clean sheets, and conceded only 15 times.

Nhlapo also proved to be a nightmare for defenders as she netted seven goals in the Super League and bagged the winning strike against Rivers Angels during the group stage of the Women’s Champions League in Cairo.

The highly experienced centre back displayed her impeccable passing range and organisational and defensive skills throughout last season.

“I feel very blessed to be part of the Mamelodi Sundowns family. It was a record-breaking season for the club and myself as well. I am delighted at the trophies we won both in South Africa and on the African continent,” said Nhlapo, who is difficult to beat on the ground and in the air.

“To be named among the Caf Women’s Champions League best XI at the tournament in Egypt left me so excited. The team worked very hard throughout the season, and we duly reaped the rewards in style.

Meanwhile, the former Banyana Banyana international revealed her life aspirations after football.

“I would love to give back to the game that has given me so much,” stated Nhlapo.

“I am looking forward to an opportunity within Sundowns that would enable me to mentor young girls and to ensure that they have a smooth transition into the club’s structures. I believe I would function very well in an ambassadorial role working with the club legends like Teko Modise and Tiyani Mabunda.”

Nhlapo reserved special praise for her mother, who happens to be her role model.

“My mother has been on my side from the onset. Initially, she did not understand the game of football, but she made provisions for me to play the game right from my tender age. Through diligence and commitment, I have always repaid her faith by giving my best whenever I am on the pitch.

“Winning the Caf Champions League has put the family name on the map, and I know she is proud of my achievement,” concluded the Sundowns Ladies captain.

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