Soccer veteran Dukes Machaka ploughs back to his community
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.