The 2018-19 South Africa ABSA Premiership title started over the weekend with the league’s defending champions, the Mamelodi Sundowns, welcoming bitter rivals, the Kaizer Chiefs, in the opening fixture without Liberia’s Anthony Laffor.
The Sundowns, which Laffor plays for, had to start the season without the Liberian forward after he was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Laffor missed out on playing against the team that came close to signing him in the ongoing transfer window after Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane said the player was still needed at the club, but the club won’t stand in his way if he decides to seek a new challenge.
Without Laffor’s presence on the pitch, the ‘Brazilians,’ as the Sundowns are commonly called, were held to a 1-1 draw on home soil. Their title defense got off to a disappointing start after the Kaizer Chiefs took an early lead in the eighth minute. South African defender Ramahlwe Mphahlele gave the visitors the lead before Brazilain defender Ricardo Nascimento leveled the score from the penalty spot in the 24th minute.
Laffor was expected to make a return for the Sundowns’ second league game against Polokwane City on Tuesday, August 7. However, he was again missing from the squad that grabbed a 2-0 win away from home.
With Sundowns playing the 2018-19 CAF Champions League and the domestic competitions, Laffor revealed to The Bush Chicken that he was advised by the team’s doctors to recover fully before making a return to the pitch. He said it is important for the team because the club has a long season and will need all of their players in full readiness to help achieve their goal.
“Right now, there’s a possibility of returning to the pitch, but I think the right thing to do is to fully recover from the injury,” Laffor said. “I already had that in mind and the team doctors advised me to get back to full fitness before making any return. I’m in no rush because we have a very long season ahead. We have many competitions to play in and waiting on the rightful time to recover will benefit not only myself but the team also. The CAF Champions League plus other domestic competitions are on our shoulders. We have a goals archive and it requires every player to be ready to help the team to achieve the goals.”
Laffor’s current injury is not only a problem for the Sundowns but for Liberia’s national team, which will need his services for the African Cup of Nations qualifiers in September. The Lone Star will host DR Congo in their second 2019 AFCON qualifying game, and Laffor believes he’ll recover by then.
“I want to play. No footballer loves this moment but has to deal with it when it comes. I hope to be back on the pitch soon. We have few league games and the champions league game before the Nations Cup qualifiers. I’m confident of recovering from the injury before the game,” he said.
The Sundowns will face the Golden Arrows in the 2018 MTN-8 Cup, then the Moroccan club Wydad Casablanca in the CAF Champions League, followed by Highlands Park in the South Africa ABSA Premiership and they will host Guinea’s Horoya AC in the CAF Champions League before the international break in September when Liberia plays DR Congo.
Featured photo courtesy of Sowetan Live