Sphelele Mkhulise has reflected on his rise from a Mamelodi Sundowns ball-boy to playing a starring role in their 2019/20 domestic treble-winning season.
Mkhulise, 24, enjoyed a breakthrough 2019/20 season under Pitso Mosimane as he directly contributed to six goals in 34 games across all competitions as an advanced playmaker and wide-midfielder in their fluid system.
With the vast riches available at Masandawana, academy products in years gone by have needed to show exceptional potential to be able to mix with the star-studded names in the first-team.
Following in the footsteps of Percy Tau, Mkhulise, who's been at the club for eight years, opened up to their official website about his unique experience and sharing a dressing room with his childhood heroes.
Scroll through the gallery to see the youngest debutants for Sundowns since 2006
"I have come far with this team, I’ve been here since 2012. I have worked my way up to the first-team and it has been hard work all the way," the midfielder said.
"Some of the guys I am playing with like Hlompho Kekana, Themba Zwane and Tebogo Langerman have been here for a while, and funny enough I used to be a ball-boy for them, whilst I was at the academy, but look at me now, sharing the same dressing room with them."
Despite winning the confidence of former coach Mosimane last season, the Chloorkop academy graduate concedes he needs to improve his end product if he is to build on his early success with the first-team.
"I want to improve as a player, I want to play more so that I can try and have more assists. As you know, assists are important. I want to improve on my scoring and I want to win more trophies with the club," he explained.
"It is a dream come true for me to play for the club and I want to work hard and show all the youngsters at the academy that if you work hard, anything is possible."