City's Ralani reveals why link to Henrik Larsson resulted in his nickname‚ Grootman
Cape Town City have arguably the most exciting set of wingers in the Absa Premiership and one of the men bringing through the new generation of wide players at the club is a veteran who has only recently become known to South African audiences.
Surprise Ralani is likely to start on the bench against Kaizer Chiefs in Wednesday night’s Absa Premiership matchup at FNB Stadium (kickoff 7.30pm) as he returns from injury.
That does not mean the 31-year-old’s influence will not be felt‚ having played a role in mentoring the man who could start ahead of him‚ Gift Links.
Ralani had a stellar career in Sweden and Denmark having moved to Europe a decade ago without playing professional football in South Africa.
He was therefore something of an unknown quantity for local fans when he joined City‚ a year ago‚ but‚ injuries apart‚ he has made a big impression on the local game with some eye-catching performances.
“I’m enjoying my time at City because I’m getting the freedom from the coach [Benni McCarthy] to express myself on the field‚” Ralani said.
“That makes it easier for me‚ and also the other players have started to believe in my ability.”
Ralani admitted that he was not a household name in South Africa before his return to the country‚ but said he did not feel pressure to prove himself.
“I don’t think I had to prove myself. But you know in South Africa – they rate the leagues in Scandinavia very low‚ so at some point I did feel like I needed to show what I was capable of.
“Now I’m quite sure that everyone has some view of who Surprise Ralani is and not just hearing about what I can do based on my time in Denmark and Sweden.”
The winger admitted that he is heading towards the end of his career‚ but said he feels he can still add significant value on and off the pitch.
“Age is not on my side. I have had my best years when I was in Sweden‚ which I really enjoyed. Now I am just trying to do my best for Cape Town City and help to grow the team in getting trophies‚” he said.
“I do want to make a name for myself here in South Africa. I still dream of playing for Bafana Bafana and I won’t give up on that until my career is over.”
Ralani said he is also enjoying his role as mentor in the City squad and is keen to help some of the younger players realise their dream of playing in Europe.
“A lot of them are looking up to me because I have been abroad and I have been long in the game.
“I have worked with the likes of [former Barcelona and Manchester United striker] Henrik Larsson and I really looked up to him – he has worked with Ronaldinho‚ Lionel Messi and Deco in the past.
“I learned a lot from Larsson and was very close to him. That’s why the likes of Gift [Links] and Thabo [Nodada] call me ‘Grootman’.
“I share a little bit with them because I feel like it is my duty to help them and I want them to reach that dream of going to Europe.”
City could move to within four points of Absa Premiership leaders Bidvest Wits with victory over Chiefs.