JOHANNESBURG — Cuthbert Malajila says he is reborn, a bit of a cliché used by players who feel they have just been given a new lease on life by moving to a new club.
But the Zimbabwean striker, on the verge of representing his national team at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Gabon following their first qualification since 2006, genuinely means it after spending the previous season as somewhat of a back-up player at Absa Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns despite his obvious talent and proven goal-scoring record.
Bidvest Wits made it clear to the Brazilians that a deal between the two clubs for the services of Sibusiso Vilakazi would be struck only if Malajila, along with Mogakolodi Ngele, went in the opposite direction.
“I had no hesitation,” said Malajila about the move to Wits.
“The best thing for a player is always to compete. Sure, you could say the other contributing factor to this transfer was to give myself a fighting chance to make the national team. They can’t pick me if I am not getting any game time.”
Malajila had plenty of reasons to be frustrated at Sundowns, a club that beat stiff competition to land his signature three years ago from Maritzburg United, where he had finished the season as the club’s top scorer with 11 league goals.
Two seasons later, he found himself further down the pecking order of striking options for coach Pitso Mosimane, but he has two championship medals to show for his hard work at Chloorkop.
It was time to say goodbye and, although Wits have only played six matches in all domestic competitions, Malajila only managing two starts, he finally announced himself by scoring in their 2-0 league victory away to rookies Baroka FC last Tuesday night, having been on the pitch for roughly 10 minutes.
“Not really,” was his response when asked whether kicking his heels on the bench was exasperating, before adding: “But I am a player who always wants to contribute. I don’t want to just sit and get medals.”
He wants to play and he has mileage on him, to borrow a phrase from his new coach Gavin Hunt, who is obsessed with players who have been around the block and have a winning mentality.
“When I am working hard, I want to see how my hard work pays off,” Malajila said.
“So, last season was not like that. I don’t usually want to talk about the past. Right now I feel like I’ve just come from Zimbabwe and working hard to give my all to Wits.
“Already we are in a Cup final, which is big for me because I’ve never played in an MTN8 Cup final.”