‘We Want To Rewrite History’: Place At The Top Table In Global Club Football For South African Star

Published 23 days ago
By Forbes Africa | Nick Said
South Africa v DR Congo – TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations
Ronwen Williams of South Africa celebrates saving the final DR Congo penalty to secure winning the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations 3rd place match between South Africa and DR Congo at Stade Felix Houphouet Boigny on February 10, 2024 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Ronwen Williams was recently crowned the best goalkeeper in the southern African region by COSAFA, but in truth he is among the leading glovemen across all the continent following a superb 12 months for both club and country.

The 32-year-old was rewarded for his form with a new contract at Mamelodi Sundowns, perhaps suggesting that a move to Europe is now unlikely, and as national team captain has reset his focus on taking Bafana Bafana to the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Having made his professional debut in South Africa’s topflight as a 19-year-old at SuperSport United, a rarity to have a teenage keeper play in the elite level, in the subsequent 13 years he has reached legend status in the local game and is arguably at the peak of his powers.

Advertisement

But what is also true is that he is expected to meet incredibly high standards at Sundowns, who again will vie for six trophies in the coming 2024/25 season where they will be expected to do well in all, and lift more than the two pieces of silverware they managed in the last campaign.

“It’s tough, really tough, because you have the board supported by the chairman (Tlhopie Motsepe) that do so much for us,” Williams tells FORBES AFRICA. “They go out of their way to make sure things are smooth, are good, we are well prepared and therefore they are very demanding.

Ronwen Williams receives COSAFA Men’s Goalkeeper of the Year award during the 2024 COSAFA Awards at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on the 9th of May 2024 (©Nokwanda Zondi/BackpagePix)

“The nice thing about pressure is you can feel it. You just need to show up to your job, win games, win as many trophies as possible. And enjoy it. I would rather be in this situation than any other situation, because there’s lots to play for, there’s lots of success, there’s a lot of trophies, there’s a lot of (financial) incentives as well.

Advertisement

“The coach (Rulani Mokwena) protects us from it, he shields us away from the pressure. So, we enjoy it and we want to be successful and we want to rewrite history.”

What that success has brought is a place at the top table in global club football when Sundowns take part in next year’s inaugural FIFA Club World Cup along with the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid.

“That we are going to be part of this tournament, with so many (top) teams, speaks volumes for the club and the direction we want to go,” Williams says. “We were part of the first African Football League too. So, it just shows you know the level that we are at and what we want to achieve as a club.”

Williams has been a key figure in the recent upturn in fortunes for Bafana, not just as a shot-stopper, but also the captain of the side. Many have been surprised by the rapid improvement in the national team, but he always felt it was around the corner.

Advertisement

It culminated in a third place finish at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Ivory Coast, where Williams won the Goalkeeper of the Tournament award.

“In many interviews I’ve done over the last year I told journalists that I can see Bafana Bafana doing well at Afcon and no one believed me,” he said. “But we knew what we were building, we knew the brotherhood we had and the talent that I’ve seen.

“Now, if you have the brotherhood and the team spirit is tops, there’s nothing that can stand in your way. The unity can carry you when you don’t maybe have the best players and when things are not going well.

“That’s when you count on each other and that showed at Afcon when things were tough, and guys were injured. When guys were tired, when you start missing your family, that’s when the brother comes through for you.”

Advertisement