Olympics Football: The day South Africa stopped Neymar – Malepe rallies new generation

After featuring in the previous global event, the 24-year-old star is also in Tokyo for the ongoing tournament

South Africa’s Tercious Malepe has recounted how his former teammates superbly contained Brazil’s Neymar during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

South Africa faced the hosts – who eventually became champions – in front of 70,000 fans in the city of Brasilia and Malepe has revealed how impressed he was with how his teammates faced them. 

The home team was led by highly-rated forward Neymar in an opener that eventually ended in a 0-0 draw.

“What Neymar does on the pitch is amazing – just beautiful to watch,” Malepe told Fifa.com. “But I was on the bench that day and I remember watching how our defenders, guys like Abbubaker Mobara, played against him. Cool, calm, collected – it was amazing.

“I could honestly watch the moments from that game over and over again: Neymar bringing everything he had to score, but our guys doing such a good job of containing him and keep a clean sheet. It showed me what you can achieve, even against great players and teams, if you believe in yourself.

“Character is so important; showing people ‘I might not be a big star, but I have what it takes to be here’.”

Mynai Experience

The South Africa international also spoke about his career and experience after joining FC Mynai of Ukraine, although he returned to the Premier Soccer League with AmaZulu after the Ukrainian team was relegated.

“I feel I am a better player for playing on that stage and facing teams like Shakhtar Donetsk, Dynamo Kyiv and all the top players they have,” he added.

“I remember going in to play Shakhtar the weekend after they’d beaten Real Madrid and, again, thinking, ‘This is all about character’. And I did well – I dominated my battles. When I was watching the Euro, I was watching Ukraine play, thinking, ‘That guy was chasing me when I played against him!’

“So yeah, I enjoyed my time in Ukraine. I think the way I see the game definitely improved while I was there. That’s one thing about me: I won’t stop learning. Whatever happens, I’ll always be a student of the game.”

South Africa vs Japan, Olympics

Malepe is in Japan with his teammates for the 2020 Olympics and he has revealed how he has helped the players understand the competition.

“When I tell the young guys here how important this tournament is, and how special it is for us to be here, they understand I know what I’m talking about,” he continued.

“I’ve been in their position – I was the youngest player in our squad in 2016 – and I’ve been telling them: ‘The atmosphere of this event, the surroundings, the level of play, is something else.'”

In South Africa’s squad, he is the only player with prior experience of Olympic football and made history by becoming the first South African star to feature in back-to-back editions.

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