By Justin Haggerty

MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP – Muskegon Risers defender Bandile “Banda” Mathandela lost his grandmother this week, but was unable to return  to his homeland of South Africa for the funeral.LSJ Logo incert

The Risers honored him before Saturday’s game with a large, framed picture of his grandmother and a touching moment of silence.

Then Mathandela honored his grandmother’s memory by scoring the winning goal – his first goal of the season – in the Risers’ exciting 2-1 victory over Detroit Waza Flo at Reeths-Puffer High School.

The Risers improved to 6-3-1 overall and 6-0-1 at home.

Bandile Mathandela reacts after scoring the winning goal for the Risers on Saturday. Photo/Muskegon Risers.

Bandile Mathandela reacts after scoring the winning goal for the Risers on Saturday. Photo/Tyler Lirones.

“When she passed away, my mother asked me if I wanted to come back (to South Africa),” Mathandela told Local Sports Journal after the game. “I decided that I’m just going to stay because the last person I spoke to before I boarded the plane to come here was (his grandmother).

“She just wanted to pray with me. I just took that and I decided that she knew and that she wanted me to stay.”

The entire Risers organization, as a family, rallied around Mathandela during his time of grief.

“For the South African boys on the team especially, they’re very close,” explained Risers Assistant Coach Mike Lee, who has been filling in while head coach David Wood has been absent. “As a team, we surrounded him, kept him occupied and tried to keep him busy this week.

“We wanted to win this game for his gran, and having him scoring the game winner was just… goosebumps. It’s amazing, all the chances we had all day, for that to be the one. I think that’s a good way for him to know that she’s taking care of him.”

The game didn’t start off well for the Risers. Detroit opened the scoring with a goal on a free kick just three minutes into the contest.

Brogan Shrimpton prepares to unleash a shot for Muskegon. Photo/Jason Goorman.

Brogan Shrimpton prepares to unleash a shot for Muskegon. Photo/Jason Goorman.

Muskegon answered about five minutes later when Jeff McClure beat the Waza defense on the left wing, before centering to Brogan Shrimpton, who scored from close range.

Muskegon dominated most of the match, missing numerous shots wide of and over the Detroit net. The Risers had a 7-1 shot advantage in the first half, but the score remained deadlocked at halftime.

Overall Muskegon outshot Detroit 15-2.

“My message at halftime was, look how we scored that first goal – not individual – every other chance that you screwed after that was because you were going on your own,” Lee said. “This is a team sport, make it easy on yourselves.

“The clock started running down and it just wasn’t going in. We were throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it.”

Mathandela’s game winning goal came with about eight minutes left in the game.

The Risers were awarded a corner kick to the right of the goal that player/owner Matt Schmitt took. He made a perfect pass to the feet of team captain Jamie Waters, whose shot was stopped by the Detroit goalkeeper.

The rebound bounced into the air near the right goal post, where Manthandela was waiting.

He saw his opportunity with his back to the net, leaned back and put a perfect bicycle kick into the back of the goal, sending his team into a frenzy and keeping the Risers undefeated at home.

“It was written in the stars,” an emotional Mathandela said afterward. “We were hoping that I’d get one off a corner and head it, and it happened.”

“I think I went blank after that. I just remember having 20 guys on top of me. It was written in the stars, man. It was written in the stars.”