Daine Klate has be­come the most dec­o­rated ac­tive Pre­mier Soc­cer League foot­baller af­ter bag­ging a record sixth Absa Premier­ship ti­tle to add to his eight cup-win­ner’s medals. The Bid­vest Wits mid­fielder played a key part in de­cid­ing both the club’s trophi

Kick Off - - Special Feature Daine Klate -

Scor­ing a brace in their em­phatic 3-0 win over Mamelodi Sun­downs in the MTN8 fi­nal last year was as per­fect a start to a sea­son as Daine Klate could have wished for, as he ended his own two-year drought and his club’s six-year spell with­out sil­ver­ware. That set the tone for a sea­son end­ing in sim­i­lar fash­ion as Wits marched to a maiden league ti­tle in their 96-year his­tory. “The MTN8 was a very good start to the sea­son and, for the club hav­ing gone the past six sea­sons with­out sil­ver­ware and com­ing ever so close to win­ning the league, I think it was a mon­key off the back,” de­clares Klate. Re­flect­ing on de­thron­ing Sun­downs, Klate be­lieves Cape Town City proved de­ci­sive in the ti­tle race by com­plet­ing the dou­ble over the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, thus paving the way for Wits to claim the cham­pi­onship. “Last sea­son Sun­downs were by far the best team,” he ad­mits. “I mean, 71 points is a huge tally. I’ve never won the league with that amount of points with any team be­fore, so they were never go­ing to be beaten. “The coach told us last sea­son that for a team like Wits to win the league you need the likes of Or­lando Pi­rates and Kaizer Chiefs to com­pete, but for­tu­nately for us it was Cape Town City who man­aged to be up there and even do us a favour by beat­ing Sun­downs twice.

“We needed a race where the top

teams needed to beat each other so that the points mar­gin would be lower, and that’s why 60 points were enough this sea­son. You stand no chance com­pet­ing alone with Sun­downs, which they showed in the past few sea­sons, so it helps a lot when a few teams com­pete at the top to can­cel each other out.” Af­ter win­ning five league ti­tles spread across two dif­fer­ent clubs in con­sec­u­tive years, many dubbed Klate the “league’s lucky charm” and felt that wher­ever he goes the Absa Premier­ship tro­phy fol­lows. True to the tale, the 32-year-old bagged his sixth ti­tle at his third club. “Prior to join­ing Wits, I fol­lowed the club’s progress in the sea­son be­fore

when they hey ended third, so when we man­aged ed to fin­ish sec­ond last sea­son it showed wed that con­sis­tent build­ing to­wardss the ultimate tar­get of end­ing top,” hee ex­plains.

“I felt likeike we al­most gave it away,

but luck­i­lyk­ily for us Sun­downs weren’t at theirr best at crit­i­cal times and we were fir­ing ring when it counted most. For Wits s to win the league ti­tle for the first time me in 96 years is mas­sive, and I’m just happy to be a part of that. “It hap­pened ap­pened at Su­per­Sport United, where I was part of the team that won the e club’s first-ever league ti­tle, and then en I moved on to Pi­rates, where they had gone eight years with­out t a tro­phy, and I was part of the team m that made his­tory there too. So it’s nice to re­alise that wher­ever I’ve gone,ne, I not only won ti­tles but was al­soo part of the clubs’ his­tory.” Look­ing king back at the sea­sons in which Klate pre­vi­ously won league ti­tles, he e played a telling role in all but two, o, in both of which he missed half thee sea­son through a re­cur­ring shoul­der er in­jury that re­quired surgery. This sea­son ason he missed just five league games, , start­ing 17 and mak­ing eight sub­sti­tute ute ap­per­ances, while scor­ing three goals oals and as­sist­ing seven. “Help­ing­ping teams in cru­cial mo­ments is one part where I’ve come good,” he says. s. “I think the third league ti­tle at Su­perS­porterS­port stands out, where I played 29 games and was the top goal scorer orer at the club. Last sea­son, again I was top goalscorer at Wits but we ob­vi­ously didn’t win the league.. This sea­son I played a slightly dif­fer­entnt role, but I still con­trib­uted at vi­tal stagesages of the sea­son, when the

team needed me the most. “It’s just about be­ing a team player and hav­ing the will to win and mak­ing sac­ri­fices, not only for your­self but also for the team. You go in early, try to do ex­tra work and leave last – try to lead by ex­am­ple. Do­ing all that doesn’t only ben­e­fit your­self, but also the team. That’s some­thing you al­ways need to think about. It’s what the Cris­tiano Ron­al­dos, Lionel Mes­sis, and David Beck­hams of this world have all done to be­come who they are. “If I think about it now, maybe I could have even done more over the years, but win­ning all the league ti­tles and con­tribut­ing to­wards my teams’ suc­cesses is proof that I only want to win and I dis­like los­ing.”

At 32, many pro­fes­sional foot­ballers

are en­ter­ing the twi­light stages of their ca­reers, but the Port El­iz­a­beth-


(Be­low) At 32, Klate still has what it takes to play at the top. born man still looks ever­green as he com­petes at the same level with young­sters such as teenagers Phaka­mani Mahlambi and Reeve Frosler, while also of­fer­ing them him pearls of wis­dom. “I’m get­ting to a point where my role is chang­ing with my age. I’ve played 13 sea­sons now, but I can’t merely talk and tell the younger play­ers what they need to – it’s about show­ing them what to do. I start by mak­ing sure I’m never late for train­ing, I re­spect my time at the club be­cause it’s my job, so I show how much I love be­ing there and that’s im­por­tant,” he ex­plains. “I’ve re­alised that ev­ery­thing I have to­day is be­cause of foot­ball, so I need to get the mes­sage across that it’s im­por­tant to re­spect the game in

or­der for the game to re­ward you. Once I can get that mes­sage across, there’s no way they [young­sters in the team] can go wrong. “I’ve seen so much tal­ent go to waste over the years – my for­mer team­mates Ma­si­bu­sane Zongo and Ju­nior Khanye both went way­ward be­cause they had no re­spect for the game, and they took the op­por­tu­nity of play­ing foot­ball for granted. Foot­ball doesn’t owe any­one any­thing and that’s some­thing that needs to be en­gaved into ev­ery young player.” Just un­der four years ago Klate was con­test­ing in his maiden CAF Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal, when Pi­rates lost out to Egyp­tian giants Al Ahly. He now has an op­por­tu­nity to travel the dis­tance once again, and pos­si­bly go one bet­ter with a Wits side who he helped to their first ever do­mes­tic dou­ble.

“With the in­ter­est in CAF

com­pe­ti­tions from South African clubs grow­ing, af­ter we did so well with Pi­rates and made the coun­try re­alise that we can ac­tu­ally com­pete in Africa, it’s def­i­nitely some­thing to look for­ward to,” Klate says. “Sun­downs win­ning last year also proves that it’s im­por­tant for the coun­try that our clubs take it se­ri­ously, be­cause it bodes well for the league and the na­tional team. “Ob­vi­ously it’s still dif­fi­cult, with the PSL calendar and the CAF calendar run­ning dis­joint­edly, as we’ve seen with Sun­downs strug­gling to keep up now af­ter do­ing so well last year. But hav­ing per­son­ally been there with Pi­rates, the ex­pe­ri­ence was sec­ond to none.

“It’s a bit dif­fer­ent here at Wits at the

mo­ment be­cause just 12 years ago the club was play­ing in the Na­tional First Divi­sion and they’ve now got their first ever top-flight league ti­tle. It’s im­por­tant for me to look at the club’s am­bi­tions be­fore get­ting ahead of our­selves and start say­ing we want to win the Cham­pi­ons League, but, per­son­ally, I’d love to give it a good go. “We fell short this year against Al Ahly be­cause of one goal we con­ceded from a set-piece in Cairo, but that ex­pe­ri­ence alone helped us to kick on and win the league.” Hav­ing made his­tory with a sixth league ti­tle and win­ning ev­ery­thing else on of­fer on the do­mes­tic foot­ball scene, there can’t be much else for Klate to aim at now. His bi­o­log­i­cal clock may be wind­ing down, but is Bafana Bafana still within his sights? Per­haps play­ing the 2019 Na­tions Cup in Cameroon, or pos­si­bly even the World Cup in Rus­sia in next year? “I’ve pretty much achieved ev­ery­thing here, it’s just about tak­ing it one sea­son at a time and see­ing how long I can go with the same pas­sion and de­sire to keep play­ing,” he says. “I don’t re­ally want to re­open the talks of my in­ter­na­tional ca­reer. “With ‘Vi­sion 2022’, there’s no real place for me to be in that set-up. I ac­tu­ally said that two years ago, but then found my­self back in the team again last year. But I firmly be­lieve ev­ery­thing hap­pens the way it should, and I have no hard feel­ings. I also have no drive to try and earn a place in the Bafana team. “Should we qual­ify for the World Cup or Af­con then maybe I stand a chance, but I won’t lose any sleep try­ing to achieve that. The last time I missed out on the 2010 World Cup, and that was the big­gest stage ... since then I’ve ac­cepted that cer­tain things are be­yond my con­trol. “When I’m done play­ing one day, at what­ever age, I’ll be able to say I have ab­so­lutely no re­grets, whether I get an­other one, two or five more caps. I think I’ve en­joyed great suc­cess in my ca­reer and I’ve done pretty well for my­self and the teams I’ve played for. I have no goals set for Bafana at this stage of my ca­reer, but I’m still be­hind the team, ob­vi­ously. If I’m there then great, but if not then no hard feel­ings.”

(Be­low) Klate cel­e­brates with team­mate Moe­neeb Josephs and fam­ily.

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