Bafana hero Thapelo Morena: I had to give everything for amazing Bloemfontein fans

Thapelo Morena soars into the air to celebrate his goal with the Bafana supporters in Bloemfontein. Photo: BackpagePix

Thapelo Morena soars into the air to celebrate his goal with the Bafana supporters in Bloemfontein. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 13, 2024


Thapelo Morena has opened up about his emotional return to Bloemfontein in the colours of the South African national team.

Bafana Bafana boosted their chances of securing qualification for the 2026 Fifa World Cup with an impressive 3-1 win over Zimbabwe at the Free State Stadium on Tuesday night.

Morena was rightfully named the Player of the Match as he came on at half-time to score two decisive goals, and sent the home crowd into a frenzy, marking the perfect return to a city that once chanted his name every week.

The 30-year-old burst into the scene in the colours of the now-defunct Bloemfontein Celtic in 2013 and was adored for the next three years, and later left when Mamelodi Sundowns came calling in 2016.

Born in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, Morena has a lifelong bond with the people of Bloemfontein, who called for his inclusion while Bafana and Zimbabwe were locked at 1-1 in the first half.

Morena opened up about his feelings before and after the match to the media in attendance.

He also expressed how the return to his old stomping ground had pulled on his heartstrings.

“I think firstly coming into Bloem is something different. The feeling is amazing, and I also told the guys that when you get to Bloem, you are going to have supporters. We just had to work very hard and give them a good game on the pitch,” he said after the game.

“Ja, for me, it was very emotional because I played here and have a lot of history in this stadium and even at the Dr Molemela Stadium. So, I had to (do) my level best to give everything they knew about me.”

The Sundowns man has developed himself to be able to play in numerous positions for club and country, a blessing to have for coaches Hugo Broos and Rulani Mokwena at international and club level.

On this occasion, he came on for Elias Mokwana on the right wing, and immediately ripped into the Warriors’ defence with his blistering pace.

When quizzed about what kind of instructions he received before coming on, Morena revealed that he could pick up details about the game when Broos spoke to his teammates on the field – and from there, he knew what the demands were.

“Like the coach said, every player is important, and even when you are sitting on the bench, you can see the match differently because you have the side view,” he said.

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“Obviously, you can hear the instructions from the coaches (to the players on the pitch). I think the most important thing is to stay focused and believe you are going to get a chance to play, and you’ll deliver.”

Morena and Bafana will reconvene in March next year for the continuation of the World Cup qualifiers, where they will face neighbours Lesotho.