Deon Hotto

The Bid­vest Wits re­cruit shares his se­crets to suc­cess fol­low­ing his im­pres­sive feat of fea­tur­ing in ev­ery league game over the past two years.

Kick Off - - INSIDE -

Deon Hotto’s sweet left foot has been the ad­mi­ra­tion of many since his ar­rival in South Africa from his home­land Namibia in Jan­uary 2014. Yet over and above his eye-catch­ing dis­plays is the fact that through the two years he spent at Bloem­fontein Celtic after join­ing from Golden Ar­rows, he didn’t miss a sin­gle league en­counter for the Free State club, with that im­pres­sive run con­tin­u­ing into this sea­son fol­low­ing his move to Bid­vest Wits. KICK OFF’s Love­more Moyo finds out the se­crets to Hotto’s con­sis­tency.

In 60 league matches spread over two years, mid­fielder Deon Hotto was in­volved in ev­ery one of them for former club Bloem­fontein Celtic, clear ev­i­dence of the value all three coaches – Ser­ame Let­soaka, Lehlo­honolo Seema and Ve­selin Jelu­sic – saw in him over their re­spec­tive tenures at the club. Even more im­pres­sive was the fact that in his first sea­son in Bloem­fontein, the ex-Golden Ar­rows man ap­peared in all 34 games played across all com­pe­ti­tions, slot­ting in straight away fol­low­ing a swap deal with Vuyani Ntanga. Hotto missed just two fix­tures over the 2017/18 cam­paign as he was rested for his side’s Ned­bank Cup clash against Su­per­Sport United be­fore then be­ing forced to miss the clash with Richards Bay in the same com­pe­ti­tion due to a ham­string in­jury. Now after mov­ing to Bid­vest Wits at the start of this sea­son, he has main­tained that in­cred­i­ble run, start­ing all five games for his new club prior to the Septem­ber in­ter­na­tional break. “I’m lov­ing it,” Hotto says of his im­pres­sive feat. “This is what I came to South Africa to do, so I am en­joy­ing it. After all, get­ting to play all the time is what any hon­est foot­baller wants in his ca­reer. “If you are be­ing kept in the team ev­ery week, that should be the strong­est sig­nal that you are ad­ding value to the team. It is an in­di­ca­tion that you are do­ing some­thing right and you need to con­tinue that way for you to re­main rel­e­vant in the team. But it shouldn’t

mean you must re­lax – no, never! Ac­tu­ally, it is an in­di­ca­tion of the ex­tra ef­fort you need to put into your game to avoid be­ing dropped. “I re­ally have to em­pha­sise that to al­ways be in the team is al­ways a good feel­ing and very en­cour­ag­ing. When you have been play­ing this much foot­ball, your con­fi­dence is al­ways high which rubs off on your per­for­mance. When your con­fi­dence is high, what it then means is that you must just give your all in all the games you play.” It is not that Hotto merely takes to the field and plays with no pur­pose or end prod­uct. In his first sea­son at Celtic he pro­vided two as­sists and a soli­tary goal through a dif­fi­cult cam­paign for the club in which they nar­rowly sur­vived the drop, be­fore mak­ing a greater im­pact last sea­son, up­ping his as­sist count to nine with a goal to boot. “I do read a lot into such,” the Namib­ian says of his sta­tis­tics. “You need to be aware of what you are bring­ing to the team in terms of num­bers. I wish I could score more. I re­ally do, even though I can­not force my­self to score. Goals haven’t been com­ing, but I am not giv­ing up be­cause I am also en­cour­aged by the fact that I was one of the top five play­ers with the high­est as­sists. It is okay, but I still need to learn a lot and I know that scor­ing will come with time. I can’t just force it. It will hap­pen. I know that scor­ing is one part of my game I need to work on a lot more. There have ob­vi­ously been sit­u­a­tions where I feel I should have scored and it didn’t hap­pen, but I can only keep work­ing on it. The as­sists are a pos­i­tive as­pect to any winger.” Hotto an­nounced his ar­rival at Wits with two goals and three as­sists in his first five games, al­ready equally

his to­tal goal tally at Celtic, and has been full of life down the left wing un­der Gavin Hunt. “I’m play­ing a lot higher up the field here at Wits com­pared to Celtic where I played more on the back foot be­cause I had to de­fend,” he ex­plains. “At Wits the coach wants me to do one thing, which is to at­tack and get into the box be­cause he knows I have goals in me. I must al­ways be on the front foot here in­stead of be­ing on the back foot. I know I will de­liver.” The 26-year-old says join­ing Wits had been a long time com­ing, hav­ing worked his way up the ranks in the PSL. “It has been fan­tas­tic be­cause I have been wait­ing for this move for two years,” he says. “I had been talk­ing to coach Gavin Hunt since I was at Ar­rows and thank God it fi­nally hap­pened. To­wards the end of last sea­son, I got a call from Gavin and he asked if I was ready and I told him I had been ready for the past two sea­sons. He then said, ‘I am com­ing for you’, and I thanked him. I was go­ing to be out of con­tract at Celtic as well so it made it less com­pli­cated. The qual­ity of play­ers at Wits is not the qual­ity you find at Ar­rows or Celtic. Here we have many play­ers who have won tro­phies be­fore. Which player doesn’t want to play with those that have won league ti­tles?” Mr Ver­sa­til­ity Hotto was utilised in var­i­ous po­si­tions along the left flank over the course of his 60-game streak at Celtic, with his abil­ity to read­ily adapt mak­ing him in­dis­pens­able to the team. Si­welele started last sea­son with­out a nat­u­ral left-back fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Ch­es­lyn Jamp­ies and Sibu­siso Mx­oy­ana, mean­ing then-coach Jelu­sic had to de­vise a so­lu­tion for that po­si­tion. Hotto was the an­swer, with the Ser­bian field­ing the winger at left-back in­stead of fur­ther up the field as he had done the pre­vi­ous sea­son, with the for­ward-think­ing player tak­ing it all in his stride. “For me it was very easy,” he says. “I felt very safe. I al­ways knew if I could make it at left-back, then I’d have to make it at left wing, and vice versa. I feel spe­cial be­cause I knew the coach could use me in two dif­fer­ent po­si­tions, so I had a dou­ble chance of re­main­ing in the team. As a player you need to adapt to play­ing in dif­fer­ent po­si­tions. You can’t be a player who can only play in one po­si­tion. If you play as a 10, then you should also be able to play as a 9 be­cause those two po­si­tions are al­most the same. As long as you are left-footed, you should be able to play any­where on the left flank, though as a left-back you must know when to move up and not get too ex­cited about over­lap­ping,” he says while de­tail­ing how his switch came about. “In pre-sea­son we didn’t have a nat­u­ral left-back be­cause the guys who played at left-back for us the pre­vi­ous sea­son had left the club. So dur­ing pre-sea­son, the coach just said I will have to play as a wing-back in a 3-5-2 for­ma­tion, with me in the left-back po­si­tion, though a bit higher up the field. So that is where it all started. The club was on the hunt for a left-back at the time and they even­tu­ally found Ron­ald [Pfumbidzai] from Zim­babwe. How­ever, since he had to wait for his pa­pers, I then had to do the job there. I had no is­sues play­ing there even though I had never played in that po­si­tion be­fore. The coach told me he knew I had the pace to go up and come back fast enough,” he notes. Fatherly tip-off Hotto’s unique feat of never miss­ing a game in two years sur­pris­ingly al­most went un­no­ticed by the player him­self, hav­ing only be­come aware of it when his dad let him know. “I only took note of it after my fa­ther said to me, ‘Have you re­alised you have never missed a game?’ I was like, ‘Re­ally?’ After my dad made me aware, I went on­line to check and re­alised it was true. As a foot­baller, your mind is al­ways on pre­par­ing for the next game – it all starts from train­ing, be­cause if you do well in the ses­sion, you will def­i­nitely be in the start­ing line-up.” Fea­tur­ing so con­sis­tently ev­ery sin­gle week must surely take its toll on the body,

yet the new Wits sign­ing re­veals the ut­most care he takes of him­self is what has al­lowed him to peren­ni­ally per­form. “When it comes to fa­tigue, I per­son­ally be­lieve it is all a men­tal thing,” he says. “What is im­por­tant for a soc­cer player is to rest and then put the right min­er­als into your body. If you eat the right food, get enough rest and drink the proper liq­uids, then your fit­ness will al­ways be top-notch when com­ple­mented with the train­ing you do. What mat­ters most is what you put into your body – I think that is what most guys ac­tu­ally strug­gle with. Lionel Messi plays al­most ev­ery game when he is avail­able from the start of the sea­son to the end, but you will never hear about fa­tigue with him be­cause he rests well and puts the right liq­uids into his body. The body is your tem­ple as a sports­man. In Europe they play more games than us, but they never com­plain about fa­tigue. “The trou­ble is that while we are all pro­fes­sion­als like the guys in Europe, we are not all do­ing the same things. The is­sue of rest is very im­por­tant in foot­ball.”

Deon Hotto’s PSL ca­reer kicked off at Golden Ar­rows be­fore spend­ing two im­pres­sive years at Bloem­fontein Celtic.

Hotto (l) cel­e­brates a goal with team­mates dur­ing an Absa Premier­ship match against Free State Stars.

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