Tefu’s sur­prise re­turn

New Su­per­Sport United sign­ing Tefu Mashamaite sur­prised many with his ‘pre­ma­ture’ re­turn to South Africa fol­low­ing an year-long stint at Swedish side BK Hacken, but the ex­pe­ri­enced de­fender tells KICK OFF he had al­ready achieved what he had set out to dur

Kick Off - - Contents - BY CHAD KLATE

New Su­per­Sport United de­fender Tefu Mashamaite ex­plains why his spell in Swe­den was so short-lived

The re­turn of Tefu Mashamaite to the Premier Soc­cer League af­ter a year’s stay in Swe­den raised a few eye­brows, not least be­cause the former Kaizer Chiefs de­fender ap­peared to have set­tled well at BK Hacken, de­spite a lengthy spell on the side­lines due to in­jury. The former PSL and KICK OFF Foot­baller of the Sea­son agreed a deal to join Su­per­Sport United at the end of the trans­fer win­dow, which turned out to be a timely ad­di­tion to coach Stu­art Bax­ter’s squad given the bro­ken arm sus­tained by cen­tral de­fender Clay­ton Daniels. But the In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions grad­u­ate ex­plains that his in­ten­tion to leave South Africa in the first place dif­fered from his com­pa­tri­ots, and felt there was noth­ing left for him to achieve in the Swedish Allsven­skan. “I’m 31, what did you ex­pect?” Mashamaite says. “We are liv­ing in a glob­alised world. If we as South Africans be­lieve we are one of the ‘de­vel­oped’ coun­tries, why can’t our play­ers come back and ply their trade here? “I’m just talk­ing as an In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions stu­dent now. In as much as I can live in Swe­den, which is one of the most de­vel­oped coun­tries, and play in a Euro­pean league, why can’t I come back and play in the PSL – one of the most ac­com­plished leagues in Africa that can fi­nan­cially match up to the Euro­pean sec­ond tier leagues? “I went there to ex­pe­ri­ence a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment and just get away from the South African scene. Some­times get­ting away – see­ing things from an out­sider’s per­spec­tive – helps in paving the way you look at things. “My idea was to be in Europe and look at the sit­u­a­tion in the South African league and their ap­proach – how do they com­pare? And I feel like I got what I wanted. Whether it took two years or 10 years, or even just some months, ul­ti­mately I think I saw what I wanted to see. It was ba­si­cally for re­search pur­poses.” ‘Masha’ fur­ther ar­gues that his time in Swe­den proved much more ex­pe­ri­en­tial than many would feel in­clined to think. Al­though con­ced­ing that the struc­ture of the Swedish top-flight may be of a higher standard than the PSL, he sug­gests that the amount of tal­ent un­earthed here far out­weighs that of a coun­try like Swe­den, even though they’ve pro­duced the likes of former Barcelona striker Hen­rik Lars­son and cur­rent Manch­ester United star Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic. “In terms of op­er­a­tions, there is def­i­nitely a dif­fer­ence. But you can’t re­ally com­pare and say the PSL is a bet­ter league than in Swe­den, and you can’t say Swe­den has a bet­ter league than ours,” he says. “In Swe­den the kids are pre­pared at an ear­lier stage in their lives than South African kids. The league is also more or­gan­ised in their tech­ni­cal and tac­ti­cal ap­proach to the game. “For ex­am­ple, the play­ers com­pete by show­ing more tech­ni­cal and/or tac­ti­cal abil­ity than the next. Also, there were twins in my team, and it was clear that the one was more gifted than the other, but they both made it as pro­fes­sion­als. “Whereas in South Africa, if you and your brother were put in that space, chances are one of you would be dis­cour­aged and the other would make it. Ul­ti­mately, it would be triv­ial to the South African eye or men­tal­ity, but in Swe­den they push you even if you’re not the most tal­ented. So is it pos­si­ble to com­pare the two coun­tries? It be­comes a bit dif­fi­cult.” Hav­ing re­turned home de­spite hav­ing a year left on his con­tract at Hacken, the former Bid­vest Wits cap­tain in­sists his de­ci­sion was not for fi­nan­cial gain, but rather the fact that he felt his ex­pe­ri­ence was ad­e­quate, and says the fact that his former Chiefs coach Bax­ter still saw in­ter­est in him was rea­son enough to con­vince him that the Tsh­wane club would be a good fit. “It was never about money for me. It’s about the process of life and what I’ll gain from life. I come from Kaizer Chiefs, and be­fore that I was at Bid­vest Wits, and be­fore that I was a stu­dent, so for me it was about the ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says. “I’ve built a name for my­self play­ing foot­ball so I can al­ways make money when I’m done play­ing. But it’s un­fair to paint me with the same brush as those who play foot­ball for the sole pur­pose of mak­ing money. “I de­cided to come back and didn’t join Chiefs or Mamelodi Sun­downs or Or­lando Pi­rates – the teams that are seen as hav­ing ‘big fi­nan­cial guns’.

“WHY CAN’T OUR PLAY­ERS COME BACK?”

I wanted to join Su­per­Sport, and ob­vi­ously Stu­art Bax­ter had a lot to do with my de­ci­sion. “I al­ways ask my­self, ‘What am I putting into foot­ball and what am I get­ting out of it? If I have max­i­mum hap­pi­ness in train­ing then I know I’m go­ing to be happy in a game.” Mashamaite says he was also lured by the qual­ity of the play­ers around him. “The coach also boasted of play­ers like Jeremy Brockie, Dean Fur­man and many oth­ers, and I de­cided, ‘OK, there is a pos­si­bil­ity here’. It’s bet­ter than join­ing a band­wagon – a sit­u­a­tion where you’re al­ready guar­an­teed to win – be­cause the plea­sure some­times is in the jour­ney, whether you win or lose,” he says. “Win­ning is also not about be­ing in the me­dia or oc­cu­py­ing a na­tional space; for me, win­ning is if I can con­nect with a young­ster from Beth­le­hem or Lim­popo and teach him some­thing – such small achieve­ments. “The coach told me I’ve got the lead­er­ship qual­i­ties and I can bring that up into what he’s try­ing to build. He asked if I’m will­ing to do that, and I said yes. At my age, my am­bi­tion is to guide young­sters, so that’s the role I’ve been brought in to ful­fil.”

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