Let’s not hide from it, South African football has many flaws. One of those is the lack of a recognised stream for sourcing talent. Finding talent in South Africa is a process sustained by luck and happenstance. Talented scouts, guys with a hawk eye for talent, are spread all over the country, but have to be at the right places at the right time to spot a gem. Club managers’ phones ring endlessly around their waists because of callers “offering” players for them to sign. Each one is the next best thing – the next Benni McCarthy, the future Steven Pienaar or a midfielder better than Thulani Serero. There is not school or provincial structure anyone can depend on. It’s haphazard. Like street kids who survive on collecting boxes in exchange for some R300 per load, every man is pulling their own trolley. At the same time it is also the same thing that makes South African football have the most wonderful stories of perseverance and endurance. It is underestimated how hard it is to reach the professional level of our game in this country, when you consider all the factors working against you. If you’re not a School of Excellence graduate or land at one of the academies like Ajax Cape Town’s Ikamva, you could easily slip through the net. If you are not spotted at some obscure township tournament putting a “shibobo” or “tsamaya” past your opponent, your luck might run dry. Spare a thought for guys who want to emulate respected central midfielders or see themselves as the next N’golo Kante. Is there a place for them in street football? That is why we have taken the time to doff our hats off to a club that has been given little credit for the delightful finds they’ve discovered over the years, Free State Stars. Their main man, Themba Sithole, has the alchemy of talent spotting that only a few such as Jomo Sono and Manqoba Mngqithi might appreciate. Ea Lla Koto are as glamour-free as you’re going to get. They aren’t sexy by any means. But they are the club to thank for players with the discipline required to have a long stay at the top such as Siphiwe Tshabalala and Thabo Matlaba. The stories of where the players come from and the road they’ve taken to get there form the genetic make-up of who they are. We only see the shoe-shine stuff, the celebrations or the dejection. What is hidden is the personal pain, the stories of triumph, the mother’s warm supper after a hungry day’s training, the father’s advice and the family sit-ins watching matches. These stories will be hidden no more. We’ve taken on the responsibility and are making a pledge to find you, our precious reader, the most delightful, insightful bits and sometimes chunks of information regarding the game you so undyingly love. We’ve motivated those that need lifting, congratulated those keep achieving and where we’ve needed to be firm, we’ve been staunch. One heart-warming story is the one on sports presenter Lebo Motsoeli, who let us into her home and told us about how her father basically turned their house into an Orlando Pirates home. And that is exactly what football is – a relationship passed down from father to son, father to daughter, brother to sister. It is a relationship nurtured by bonds. We’ve put together an edition that feels so homely you can almost smell mother’s dombolo and lamb stew special and father’s brandy. Welcome to 2017 and welcome to the KICK OFF family. Feel at home.
KICK OFF Editor