On becoming a key man for club and country
LORENZO GORDINHO: It was incredible. The coach (Stuart Baxter) came in and instilled the belief in us that if we were motivated, if we took this seriously, we could go far as a nation … and as players and grow to the next level. So everyone decided to take it upon themselves to be the best that they could be at the time. We played an incredible game against Nigeria. It was a good feeling. It was surreal. It finally happened where I got to represent the national team. I was happy and I was looking forward to the game. It was going well when we were 1-0 ahead and I thought we were going to win the game comfortably. But the end result did not take the route I wanted it to. But it was still a good game. I learnt a lot from the experience, playing international football and against a team like Zambia. They are a good team. The experience helped boost me as a player and my confidence went up, even though we lost,
“IFF WE WERE TO SACRIFICE AC R IF ICE AS A TEAMEAM FOR THE TEAM,EAM, MAYBE THINGSHINGS WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT.”
because I was able to handle my own within that game.
What do you think of your chances of getting more regular Bafana Bafana action considering there is Mulomowandau Mathoho and Thulani Hlatshwayo, plus Rivaldo Coetzee in the mix and Buhle Mkhwanazi to come back from his injury?
Obviously we have to welcome the competition. It’s good for the country. If the coach has eight centre backs to choose from and he’s got a headache deciding on a pairing, then that will be good for the country because we know on the day that the two who get paired together are going to do the best job. It will also help us all to grow as players to know we are all competing.
After Baxter left Chiefs you got regular game time at Amakhosi …
I played four games under him [Baxter] but I was promoted up to the first team squad in his second season in charge. I understand him and I think he understands me as a player. I got to learn a lot working with him at Chiefs. He helped me a lot with setting the basis and foundation to get to the next step in my career because what he told me and showed me, I was able to – not perfect but – get right. And when coach Steve [Komphela] came in I was able to perform with what I had been taught under coach Stuart.
Can you picture yourself in Russia at the World Cup finals next year?
I think it’s important to understand we still have to go through the qualifiers. There have been some good results but we haven’t qualified as yet. We have to keep on going. The coach said after we beat Nigeria, “It’s just the beginning”. I think it’s important for everyone to take confidence out of the Nigeria game but also remain realistic. There are still four games to go to qualify for the World Cup. Once the job is done and we are going, only then can we start celebrating. But the job isn’t done yet. And I think that’s important to remember because we cannot afford to become complacent.
Has being a Chiefs mainstay changed your life in the sense that you can’t walk around without being recognised?
It does change your life in the sense that you have to respect the club’s brand and respect that you are representing the club even when you are not on the field. Obviously, any decisions you make have to be with the club in mind and with your career in mind as well. So, yes, it’s a big change from what you did before you were at the club to what you do now. You are now in the public eye. But I think it’s a good effect because you are forced to be more professional, to respect the game and forced to respect yourself as well.
But there must be some malls where you know you can’t go because you won’t get out alive because of all the fans mobbing you?
There are areas you try to avoid, especially if you are tired after training. You do try to avoid malls because when people catch on that you are there, then obviously you can’t say no [to a selfie]. Well, for me, I don’t like to say no to people who come over when they recognise me. I always try and make the time.
And what do your family and friends make of your celebrity status?
I think they just see me as their friend and I’m still a son to my parents. They don’t see me as Lorenzo Gordinho from Kaizer Chiefs. They see me as their son, which is also good because visit www.kickoff.com
it keeps things humble and keeps things normal. With my friends it’s the same. Now they come to watch me play. I’m achieving things but they still treat me the same way they did when I was in high school. I’d like to continue playing at the club and win silverware. Obviously, an important part of any player’s career is to win silverware; to be part of a team that wins silverware and that makes history. I’d like to be a regular within the Bafana set up. I’m going to fight for my position and look to establish myself in the national team. And then I’ll take it from there. I haven’t set goals too far in the future because I like to focus on what’s happening around me now. Just a continuation of where I’m going at the moment and just to continue with what I’ve been doing. I have to adapt and change things about my game and how I am as a person to grow in my career.
So are you happy with how you have progressed over the last two seasons and become a Chiefs regular?
I am happy but I’m very hard on myself and sometimes I feel like I could have done more. I always strive to be perfect but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. But I’ve also learnt to take each game as it comes. Take every opportunity. When I criticise myself I try to do it fairly and give myself a chance to grow. Sometimes I expect myself to be at the highest level immediately and I think that was the hardest part because I was too hard on myself. The way we finished last season, I wasn’t particularly happy and the club wasn’t happy and I did some introspection and felt I could have done more.
In what particular areas?
As a whole, I just felt we needed to sacrifice ourselves more for the team. Every player was contributing but we were contributing to the team through our own performances. If we were to sacrifice as a team for the team, maybe things would have been different.
This coming season? Try and win as much as you can?
That’s all! Just go for the kill, try and win every game, go for every trophy there is.
In terms of the way you play, what do you think your best asset is that you bring to the team?
Tough one … maybe the ability to both defend and to play. [I’m] not just a ball player and not just an out-andout defender. My ability to do both is something that has been helping me throughout my career because there will be games where I just need to defend properly and there will be games where I have to be a ball player and I have to play with the team.
What is your sense of what Chiefs might be able to do this season?
I do have a good feeling about the season. I really think things will go well at the club and we’ll start the season looking forward to achieving things. I just want to continue progressing to the next level of my career and achieving more. Scoring more goals, achieving awards, winning silverware with the club.
What’s nicer for you: making a big fat tackle to save a certain goal or sticking the ball in the back of the net yourself?
[Laughs] I asked myself that question the other day! I don’t know. Some tackles that I pull off, I think “Wow!” I think I should celebrate after a good slide tackle and then I’ll see what feels better. But putting the ball in the net is a nice feeling. It’s a weird feeling. You don’t know what to do with yourself.
Even if you knock it in with your hand every now and then!
“[Laughs] Nice one!”
(Main) Lorenzo Gordinho ready to face Orlando Pirates in the Carling Black Label Cup.
(Below) Gordinho leaping for a header against Tanzania in the COSAFA Cup quarter-final.
(Above) Lorenzo challenging Pirates’ Thamsanqa Gabuza.