Where are they now?
Marawaan Bantam on life outside of football
“IT IS ONLY NOW THAT I REALISE I WAS STUPID TO BE IN THAT COMFORT ZONE EARNING LITTLE MONEY.”
Marawaan Bantam was one of the Premier Soccer League’s famous late bloomers – and there been plenty. He took to the top flight by storm, often earning himself the moniker “Mara Why?” whenever he tortures one of the “big three” South African clubs. Here, he chats with KICK OFF’s Lovemore Moyo and rewinds the clock …
For all the talent that Marawaan Bantam had, it has always been strange that he had to wait until he was 25 to have a taste of PSL football. “Beano”, as Bantam is widely known, got his break at Santos during the 2002/03 season but such was his struggle in his first year that he started just a single game. It was actually when he was 26 and in his second season with The People’s Team that he set domestic football alight, ending with eight goals to his name, which included a brace against Mamelodi Sundowns and another double against Orlando Pirates. “That remains one of the highlights of my career. I was on fire at that time and things were happening for me,” he chuckles as he remembers those strikes against The Brazilians and The Buccaneers. Suddenly Santos had a rare breed: a ball-playing midfielder that was blessed with a football brain in a team that was largely famous for playing direct football. You didn’t have to be a sympathiser of The People’s Team to be charmed by the sweet touches that Bantam had on the ball.
Though tiny in stature,
“Beano” was an intelligent footballer that also frequently scored memorable goals. “You really want to know why I started late? The truth is that I was too lazy and busy with nonsense with my friends after high school. I remember in matric Goolam Allie (Santos owner) approached me but I wasn’t interested and only went there for just one session. He kept on calling me but I was giving him stories everyday because I had too many distractions in my life at the time, which didn’t allow for me to focus on football,” he reveals. After completing matric, Bantam then fell for the comforts of playing lower division football at Saxon Rovers instead of pursuing the dream of playing in the PSL. “I spent four years with Rovers and the owner just didn’t want to let go of me, so I became comfortable there. It’s only now that I realise I was stupid to be in that comfort zone earning little money. However, upon discovering that staying so long at Rovers wouldn’t help, I moved to Avendale Athletico where I spent a season before Boebie Solomons lured me to Santos, with Goolam giving me another chance,” he recalls.
After five years at Santos,
Bantam moved to Bidvest Wits upon their promotion from the National First Division and ended his time in the PSL in relegation with Mpumalanga Black Aces at the completion of the 2010/11 season. He had 38 goals to his name through the three clubs that he had played for in the PSL and after a further year with Aces in the second tier he then moved to Cape Town All Stars, before finishing off at Steenberg United in the lower divisions. “I enjoyed my football career even though I didn’t have fantastic career. I mean, for a guy who started late and still played for over 10 years, I should be grateful. When I started some players my age were already fading away but I held on to my dream. I also won a Nedbank Cup medal with Wits,” notes Bantam, who turns 40 in November.
So what is he now doing for a living?
“Did you know that I am a carpenter by profession?” he says. “I work for a company called KC Home Improvers here in the Steenberg area and we do kitchen cupboards, granite tops and I have actually been doing this job full-time for the past year. So the story is that I did woodwork at school but then couldn’t continue with the craft after school because of football commitments. Luckily, I can now fall back on this skill which helps me look out for my kids,” he discloses. Yet he also hasn’t been completely lost to the game as he still plays and helps with coaching at Jamestown United in the Athlone Local Football Association in Cape Town. Jamestown is actually owned by his in-laws and has been in existence for some 75 years.