Soc­cer vet­eran Dukes Machaka ploughs back to his com­mu­nity

African Times - - Sports - MASHUDU SADIKE

The un­even and dusty soc­cer field has drops of cow dung with half torn nets and col­laps­ing rusty goal posts.

A group of about 30 chil­dren, some bare foot are get­ting changed prepar­ing for their daily train­ing at Dik­gad­ing foot­ball club. They are kick­ing the ball around with their plain feet to prac­tice for the game they love: foot­ball.

The kids, who are be­tween seven and 17, have no proper soc­cer kit, soc­cer boots or shin guards that would pro­tect them from in­juries.

The younger ones tighten ropes around their waists so that mas­sive soc­cer shorts don’t fall off when they train for their team.

This is where for­mer Mpumalanga Black Aces Mid­dle fielder Matome ‘Dukes’ Machaka has started the Dukes Machaka Sport De­vel­op­ment Academy.

The same grounds, in a tiny vil­lage called Ga-Podu in Bot­lokwa, Lim­popo, where his ta­lent was dis­cov­ered play­ing for Killers more than three decades ear­lier is still the same dull look­ing soc­cer field. It is here where Machaka is ful­fill­ing his long pas­sion of de­vel­op­ing young play­ers and where oth­ers gave him a chance 30 years ear­lier.“When my con­tract ex­pired as an as­sis­tant coach to Vladislav Heric at Polok­wane City, with the bless­ing of Heric I de­cided to pack my bags and come back home to fol­low my pas­sion and call­ing of coach­ing and de­vel­op­ing young­sters.”

Af­ter re­al­is­ing that Pro­fes­sional teams were not thought­ful about his work for de­vel­op­ing young play­ers as a young as­sis­tant coach he went on to join coach­ing cour­ses and started his de­vel­op­ment foot­ball academy and ac­quired a SAFA D1 coach­ing cer­tifi­cate.

“I was of­fered chances by other teams to be as­sis­tant coach but I re­called how Isaac Mphasha, who was an ac­tor at the time, gave us a chance by de­vel­op­ing Killers and putting us on the map. It’s be­cause of peo­ple like him that my ca­reer flour­ished be­cause we were play­ing out­side Bot­lokwa. It’s my call­ing to help these kids.

“We have many peo­ple who are tal­ented in this area but have noth­ing to show for it be­cause they leave the ru­ral area. When I came back home I sold my car to fix my par­ents’ house so I could live in it and be closer to the vil­lage to coach,” he said.

Machaka, who played com­pet­i­tively at the high­est level un­til he turned 40, is also teach­ing the chil­dren life-skills and some­times do mo­ti­va­tional talks for in­come to buy kits, soc­cer balls and corns with money from his own pocket.

“Foot­ball is my life, I used to steal my broth­ers boots. They were big­ger than me and so I put news­pa­pers and wore two pairs of socks for them to fit me. No-one would buy me soc­cer boots be­cause my par­ents had passed on. “Most of these chil­dren started when they were seven years old and seven years later their still part of this academy.

“I re­late with these boys be­cause most of them have noth­ing at home but pas­sion for the sport or any­thing else they would be,” the now 47 fa­ther of three added with a smile.

14 year old un­der 15 Killers’ Cap­tain Oa­geng Se­howa , who plays Mid­dle­field hails coach Machaka as his hero and re­lates him to a dad who he goes to when he has life prob­lems, joined the academy seven years ago when he him­self was seven and re­lies on him for sup­port.

“I love my soc­cer but coach al­ways pushes us to do well at school or we don’t play that week­end. He sup­ports us with our prob­lems as well,” said the young Cap­tain.

Se­howa says he wants to be a pro­fes­sional foot­baller and a Cli­ma­tol­o­gist when he grows up.

Machaka thinks that some com­mu­nity mem­bers around the vil­lage had a ru­ral men­tal­ity and didn’t want to lend him sup­port be­cause they thought he wanted their money.

But Re­becca Pitsi, an el­derly fe­male com­mu­nity mem­ber from Bot­lokwa Ga-Machaka thinks oth­er­wise and echoes the young cap­tain’s words.

“This boy is se­ri­ous about his work here. Ever since he started with the soc­cer here af­ter he came back from the City these boys go home af­ter school and run to the soc­cer grounds to play soc­cer. We sup­port them full heart­edly and come cheer when they play in the week­ends,” Pitsi said.The academy has since had sev­eral boys go­ing on tri­als in big teams around the prov­ince with one, hav­ing been scouted by Kaizer Chiefs’ de­vel­op­men­tal coach Authur Zwane at the academy, now play­ing for Chiefs un­der 17 side.

“We want this to be a sports com­plex not only for foot­ball bu also net­ball and other sports. I also try mak­ing it to be a sport academy that will pro­duce lawyers, doc­tors and pres­i­dents, Machaka ended.

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