Cape Town - Mamelodi Sundowns defensive midfielder Asavela Mbekile says being a late blossomer in the Premiership is what has driven him to double his efforts and make his mark in the top flight.
The 29-year-old hard-tackling midfielder, who hails from Lady Frere, Eastern Cape, made his Premiership debut at the age of 26 at Chippa United in the 2012/13 season.
With only nine appearances at Chippa United's colours - the then PSL rookies - Mbekile had made enough of an impression to be signed by Moroka Swallows, following the Chilli Boys' relegation at the end of 2012/13 season. Mbekile's performances in his second season in the top flight with Dube Birds didn't go unnoticed as he earned a dream move to Chloorkop before the beginning of 2014/15 season.
"As a late blossomer in the PSL, I made sure to grab my chance at the top-flight soccer level by both hands," Mbekile told Vodacom Soccer.
"Having played for many seasons in the NFD, at some stage I once had a feeling of calling it quits. But when I finally made it in the PSL, I grabbed the opportunity to make my presence felt in the top flight."
"Struggling for game-time in my first season with Downs didn't demoralise me, because I knew my chance would come.
"And now I'm reaping the fruits of perseverance and hard work, though I know that I still need to fight to consolidate my berth in the team's starting line-up.
"Having won the league championship title for the first time in my professional soccer career, now I'm gunning for Champions League title," enthused Mbekile, who made 13 starts, five substitute appearances and scored one goal in 18 appearances in last season's campaign.
'Downs were given a lifeline in the CAF Champions League via AS Vita Club's disqualification in May and need to beat Zamalek on Sunday in Egypt to strengthen their grasp on top spot in Group B.