Mahlambi’s 3 best skills drills you can do at home, and whyYou have to be able to control the ball and pass it otherwise you can never make it as a footballer. For extra fitness training, Mahlambi reckons that you can’t get around the well-used traditional routes such as road running, sit ups, push-ups and stretching
Passing and control
Why: Passing the ball accurately and being able to control it properly are the basics that make every world class footballer look like he has more time on the field than others. It’s the mastering of these two basic yet vital components of the game that give the very best in the business that slight egde.
“For any footballer the ability to firstly control the ball properly and develop a good first touch is vital. You want the ball to be under your control not the other way round, and when you control it you want to be able to pass again quickly and right to your man. So at home you can use a wall to pass the ball against, and then practice controlling the ball at different heights and speeds and with both feet and other parts of your body. You can work at home with a friend as well, but there is no excuse as the wall is just fine. No shortcuts just repetition,” Phakamani says.
Striking the ball
Why: So many matches these days are decided by small technical things, such as a team that works very hard on their set pieces can look back and say they might have won a title just because of their ability to score from and defend set pieces.
“The way you strike the ball can make a huge difference in your power and accuracy with shooting and with set pieces like corner kicks and free kicks. That’s why I spend time working on my technique and you can do this at home on the grass in your garden. I will aim to get my standing foot right next to the ball, as close as possible which gives you more control in the direction you want your shot to go. So, you want to get close to the ball and get used to striking it over and over again to perfect your distance, your power and the accuracy. The best free kick takers and accurate corner takers are the ones who practice the most,” he says.
Why: When players like Mahlambi are running at full speed towards a defender with the ball close at feet, you just know something is going to happen and generally the result will be a cross, goal scoring chance or a shot at goal.
Pace is a massive part of the modern game and Mahlambi oozes pace, balance and raw technical ability.
“Maybe two or three times a week I would set a time check for myself to run the 100 metre sprint. I used to run 100 metres in 10 seconds and then with training I got to under 10 seconds, and I never did a lot of athletics at school, just soccer, so this was done to improve my skills. I would also do a lot of running with the ball at my feet to increase my ball control and learn how to run at defenders when I have the ball as well as making quick runs without the ball,” he says.
Classic Road Work
Why: Mahlambi says that as a footballer you need a big engine and therefore cannot escape the need for good, perhaps even old-fashioned road work.
“Roadwork is important because in football you must be able to run, especially as a midfielder like me who covers a lot of ground in a match. But it’s important for each individual to run distances and speeds that suit him. You don’t want to over-do it. Some days you are tired from training and then just a slow paced run is fine, but it still builds your engine (your stamina and strength). Some days before training I would do extra running on the grass and just push myself a little bit more. This is something that has always worked for me,” he says.
Sit ups & pushups
Why: Sit ups and pushups can never be replaced as proven exercises that can be done before or after training, at home or when travelling, and even while you are injured.
“With me being out injured for some time, I have seen the value of sit ups and pushups. They are safe exercises, if you do them properly, because you use your own body weight as resistance to build strength and fitness. Also, you can do them anywhere and you don’t need anything to start, just get onto the floor and work! I have been able to do them every day without problems, even while I have been out injured and it’s helped me,” he says.
Stretching for flexibility
Why: Sometimes when Premier Soccer League clubs like Bidvest Wits are playing two to three matches per week, there is not much time to train as a team or recover properly, which means stretching becomes an important value for players to adopt on their own and at home.
“Flexibility has advantages in football where pace and agility are very important factors, especially for attacking players like me. When the season is very busy and you play two or three games in one week, then you can’t do a lot of heavy training, so what do you do? Stretching and flexibility can be done with the team to recover after a game and also at home. Pilates is a good way to approach stretching and first speak to a physio, like we do at the club, and get advice on classes at the gym and what you can also do at home. Pilates works very well at improving flexibility, building core muscle strength (which is very important for footballers) and helping us recover from matches,” he says.