Stellenbosch FC defender Thabo Moloisane felt on top of the world when lifting the Carling Knockout Cup trophy just six months after crying tears of anguish.
This time last year Moloisane was scrambling for points with Maritzburg United, who were at the bottom of the table during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar last year.
The Team of Choice, who appeared to have turned the corner under Fadlu Davids, eventually went down to the Motsepe Foundation Championship via the play-offs in June.
They were relegated after they failed to win the crucial last mini-league match against Cape Town Spurs. And Moloisane, having seen the club go down, packed his bags and left to join Stellies.
Fast forward six months later, the 24-year-old was in a state of ecstasy, as Stellenbosch won the Carling Knockout trophy after beating TS Galaxy at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Moloisane, who played the entire match, contributed by scoring one of the penalties to make it 3-3 after Nhlanhla Mgaga had missed his before Darrel Matsheke netted the winner to seal the trophy by walking away 5-4 victorious.
“For me, it was just to get another chance to get another team, Stellenbosch quickly called me and said I must come over and they are interested,” explained Moloisane to iDiski Times.
“Honestly [to be relegated], I just had to get over that, work, and make sure that I prove that I belong in the big league. I played very well for Maritzburg last season, I just didn’t get the recognition that I deserved.
“It was just unfortunate that a team with so much quality had to be relegated. But you know what, I’m grateful for where I am right now.”
Stellies were knocked out in the MTN8 semi-final by Orlando Pirates, with Moloisane getting sent off in the first leg. But he has formed a good partnership at the back with Ismael Toure, who swung his left foot to score the equalizer in Carling final.
“We are young players that work hard,” said Moloisane.
“We wanted to make sure that we worked because we knew this was going to happen [to win the Carling].
“Immediately after the quarter-finals, we said, ‘you know what, this is a straight journey, it doesn’t matter who we come against now, it’s just for us to make history for the club’ and I’m very proud of the boys doing that.”
Stellies’ triumph is the first major silverware in the club’s history and the trophy also represents the first for coach Steve Barker, who lost the Nedbank Cup in 2009 to Moroka Swallows, when he oversaw the University of Pretoria.