Kick Off - - Eds Letter -

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

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