Mon 16 Jul by Nick Said
Andile Jali is likely to make his debut for Mamelodi Sundowns today (TUESDAY) when they take on AS Togo-Port in their African Champions League Group C tie and he insists he has not come back to South Africa to earn big cash and rest on his laurels.The 28-year-old Bafana Bafana star turned down opportunities in Europe to return home from Belgium, where he spent four-and-a-half years with KV Oostende with mixed success.At the time of his signing he stated he wanted to be closer to his family, and felt he had proven himself enough in Europe. With Sundowns able to better the salaries he might have earned by staying abroad, has taken up the challenge with The Brazilians.He could have signed for Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, but turned down the former, while the latter were not willing to meet his salary demands.His return to the PSL, especially at an age when he should be hitting his footballing peak, has created debate among supporters, but it is a sign that with the money that is banded about in the domestic league these days, Europe does not necessarily have the same appeal for players.He will certainly be a key player to think about when TAB Soccer punters are making their picks this season.“The hardest part about my time in Belgium was staying alone – busy calling my family on the phone every time,” Jali told reporters. “It’s great being back home because I go to my kids after training. I see my kids and I play with them. It’s great to be able to be a physically present dad and do things with them.”He says his Belgian experience has changed him for the better and that he is ready to be a leader on the field for Sundowns.“There are too many things that have changed about me as a player because when I went to Belgium, I was still young at the time. I am now better at assessing the situation.“The coach can give instructions, but there are some moments where you have to make a decision in a split second. I am a smarter player now."And he insists that he still has the hunger to lift trophies and has not returned home to just pick up his pay-cheque for the next few years. “I came to a team with ambition, a team that wants to win everything they participate in because I also want to win everything.”Born in Matatiele in the Eastern Cape, Jali rose to prominence with second-tier side University of Pretoria, who he helped to the Nedbank Cup final in 2009, but lost out to Moroka Swallows.That won him a move to Orlando Pirates and he enjoyed a trophy-laden four-and-a-half years with The Buccaneers that included two domestic league titles and a run to the final of the African Champions League in 2013 where they were beaten by Egyptian giants Al Ahly.