Where are they now?

Marawaan Ban­tam on life out­side of foot­ball

Kick Off - - INSIDE - BY LOVE­MORE MOYO | Twit­ter: @kick­off­magazine

“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.

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