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