Keletso Makgalwa

Kick Off - - INSIDE -

The Mamelodi Sun­downs for­ward re­veals his jour­ney to the first team at Chloorkop and his spe­cial bond with coach Pitso Mosi­mane.

“I HAD TO WORK TO GET TO WHERE I AM NOW AND NOT BE THE KIND OF PLAYER THAT I WAS WHEN I JOINED SUN­DOWNS.”

Keletso Makgalwa is an emerg­ing for­ward at Mamelodi Sun­downs who has been slowly ris­ing in promi­nence hav­ing been used as a weapon off the bench this sea­son by coach Pitso Mosi­mane. He is keen for the fight and de­ter­mined to prove that he is wor­thy of mak­ing his name at the club and winning sil­ver­ware. He spoke to KICK OFF’s Love­more Moyo.

When Keletso Makgalwa ar­rived at the 2014 SAB Un­der-21 Provin­cial Cham­pi­onships rep­re­sent­ing Lim­popo, he was w an am­bi­tious 17-year-old, pumped up as a much by the pace he had as his teenage en­thu­si­asm. e

His gusto was driven by naivety at times, but there was no blam­ing him for that hav­ing never played in a struc­tured foot­ball pro­gramme.

He was a kid who had played first team f foot­ball in the fourth-tier SAB League f from the age of 15, when he started out at Dy­nasty FC and then moved to Yster United.

“All I ever did to be able to com­pete at t that age was to out­run my op­po­nents,” he c chuck­les.

His se­lec­tion to the SAB Cham­pi­onships held in the North West prov­ince that year c came on the back of im­pres­sive show­ings for United.

Sun­downs had their scouts watch­ing a and didn’t need much con­vinc­ing to in­vite t the speed­ster from Mah­wel­ereng to their a academy in Tsh­wane.

After the suc­cess­ful tri­als he was trans­ferred t to Clapham High School in Pre­to­ria as a Grade 11 stu­dent, where he won t the Kay Mot­sepe Schools Cup and fin­ished as t the tour­na­ment top scorer.

In the same year he ar­rived, he was s se­lected to play for South Africa at the 2015 Dur­ban Un­der-19 In­ter­na­tional Foot­ball T Tour­na­ment, where he caught the at­ten­tion of o Pitso Mosi­mane.

Mosi­mane didn’t hes­i­tate to take the teenage t for­ward to the Uthun­gulu May­oral Cup C in Richards Bay, where he scored in the fi­nal. fi

Although he couldn’t join the first team full f time that year after Mosi­mane ad­vised he fo­cuses on com­plet­ing his school­ing first, he was handed some ap­pear­ances in the Mul­tiChoice Diski Chal­lenge for the 2015/16 sea­son. s

For the next MDC sea­son, he turned on t the heat in lead­ing the Sun­downs re­serves to t the ti­tle and was de­servedly named the MDC Player of the Sea­son.

After the cam­paign, Makgalwa was se­lected for the South Africa squad that played at the 2017 FIFA Un­der-20 World Cup in South Korea, where Ama­jita fin­ished bot­tom of Group D.

But his progress con­tin­ued as after the global fi­nals, he was pro­moted to the Sun­downs first team as the 2017/18 sea­son started.

“Con­sid­er­ing where I started, I feel I have ev­ery rea­son to be proud to be at the stage that I have reached. The most im­por­tant thing for any hu­man be­ing is progress,” he said. “You can­not be for­ever in one place, so I had to work to get to where I am now and not be the kind of player that I was when I joined Sun­downs.

“I still want to do more and earn my place at Sun­downs where I have a moun­tain to climb. Where I am now is not enough, even though it is a ‘so far, so good’ mea­sure. This is still work in progress be­cause I have been tak­ing steps all the time since I first joined the club’s de­vel­op­ment.

“I am glad my fam­ily back home is happy with the progress that I have made since they know my story bet­ter. I have al­ways wanted to play foot­ball and they en­cour­aged me well.

“My par­ents have al­ways been on my side and have al­ways ad­vised me well about life in gen­eral. My dad un­der­stands a foot­ball ca­reer be­cause he has seen those that played in the past from back home and what has be­come of them now,” says Makgalwa.

‘The coro­n­avirus break wasn’t kind’

Since his pro­mo­tion to the first team he has had to take baby steps to­wards get­ting a reg­u­lar run.

This is all un­der­stand­able con­sid­er­ing that Sun­downs is a club with sound fi­nan­cial back­ing and able to buy play­ers both lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally, even though they have their own de­vel­op­ment.

“My brother, you just have to work hard and do what you can to the best of your abil­i­ties, and ev­ery­thing will be al­right even­tu­ally. About Sun­downs buying play­ers, I can­not com­ment on that

be­cause all that I can do from my side is work hard and show the coach how much I want to play, while do­ing what he wants from me. I just need to do my work, score goals and then all else will fall into place,” he notes.

The tiny for­ward wear­ing jersey num­ber 26 is jus­ti­fied to feel an­noyed about the dis­rup­tion that the coro­n­avirus has brought to do­mes­tic foot­ball – now frozen for three­and-a-half months and count­ing.

He scored the win­ner as Sun­downs got past High­lands Park in the Ned­bank Cup quar­ter­fi­nals, the last match The Brazil­ians played back on March 14, hav­ing re­turned from an­other in­jury a few weeks ear­lier.

“The coro­n­avirus en­forced break wasn’t kind to me be­cause it came at a time when I was com­ing back from in­jury, so it has af­fected me badly. It all hap­pened that my con­fi­dence was high after I had scored against High­lands Park.

“It messed up my con­fi­dence be­cause I was look­ing for­ward to play­ing in the next match and then tak­ing it a step for­ward from there. How­ever, since we are not in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion, we can­not do any­thing other than just wait for ev­ery­thing to get sorted,” he says.

This is a sea­son that has al­ways been promis­ing far bet­ter re­wards for Makgalwa than oth­ers since his pro­mo­tion to the first team.

After strangely see­ing his loan deal at Mar­itzburg United cut short mid­way through last term, de­spite mak­ing 19 ap­pear­ances, he made an im­pres­sion in pre-sea­son at Sun­downs, which swayed the club into chang­ing their ini­tial plan of loan­ing him out again.

‘10 goals and 10 as­sists’

So far, 13 ap­pear­ances with a re­turn of three goals gives hope that he can kick-on to greater heights.

“I want more and that is why I stress. You can­not be in pro­fes­sional foot­ball and be just go­ing to play for the sake of it and be say­ing that you will do bet­ter next sea­son.

It doesn’t work like that.

“For ex­am­ple, as soon as the sea­son starts, I am al­ready work­ing to­wards try­ing to make sure that I have 10 goals and 10 as­sists, and I con­trib­ute to­wards the team winning sil­ver­ware. You can’t say that you are play­ing foot­ball and you don’t have goals that you want to reach.

“In my case, I am very far from reach­ing my goals, but I be­lieve I will get there. For now, with the min­utes I got, I think it is en­cour­ag­ing to have scored the ones that I have man­aged to, but as a per­son you al­ways have goals. To reach my goals, I must work hard,” he notes.

“Dur­ing pre-sea­son I worked my socks off and scored goals, which meant the coach saw that there is some­thing here. If you work hard, ev­ery­thing changes. While we were in pre-sea­son there was the AFCON and we had six to seven play­ers away at the tour­na­ment, so the numbers at pre-sea­son were less.

“IT MESSED UP MY CON­FI­DENCE BE­CAUSE I WAS LOOK­ING FOR­WARD TO PLAY­ING IN THE NEXT MATCH AND THEN TAK­ING IT A STEP FOR­WARD FROM THERE.”

“That is when I told my­self that this is my chance to show the coach that

I can play. There was no way I wasn’t go­ing to take ad­van­tage of this op­por­tu­nity. I had to do ex­tras and when the sea­son started, I was part of the team and this was all to do with what I had done in pre-sea­son.

“I even went on to score my first goal in the first team and this was all down to push­ing my work.

“With re­gards to Mar­itzburg, I would like to think that I was maybe af­fected by the change of coaches. I don’t have the full de­tails of what hap­pened there, but it was a great les­son for me, and I am grate­ful it hap­pened,” ex­plains Makgalwa.

Mosi­mane’s in­flu­ence

It is worth not­ing the in­flu­ence that Mosi­mane has had on the for­mer youth in­ter­na­tional. Their bond is ev­i­dent from how he cel­e­brates his goals.

“The bond … it is all down to the things that he tells me, some of which are so deep they touch me. Then he will al­ways re­mind

me about what we did at train­ing when it hap­pens in the game so that is why we cel­e­brate to­gether.

“He knows what I am ca­pa­ble of, so we work on what I know. He gives me advice head­ing into that space along with where I am lack­ing. He is an ap­proach­able coach and in the team we all have this ‘wow’ re­la­tion­ship.

“There is no dis­re­spect in this team. If you need any­thing you go to him and he will show you the way in what­ever sit­u­a­tion. Even when you are not play­ing you al­ways know what you must be work­ing on be­cause it will have been made clear to you based on what hap­pened last time, so that you im­prove.

“He is the coach, so he is the one who can see how each player is. For me, I must lis­ten to the coach and the se­nior play­ers who are al­ways wel­come for us to talk to them. That is why I say we have a ‘wow’ team be­cause we have that un­der­stand­ing from play­ers to the tech­ni­cal team.

“Coach Pitso ob­vi­ously knows what is needed of some­one com­ing from de­vel­op­ment for him to even­tu­ally get into the team and then how to be­have when you start play­ing. That is where he comes in and re­minds us about the need to re­main grounded, be hum­ble and keep work­ing hard.

“He loves peo­ple who lis­ten so that you learn. It is not only at school where you learn, even in foot­ball it is like that. If you want to be­come like Messi or Ronaldo, you must be open to learn­ing,” he de­tails.

Makgalwa is also quick to stress that he con­tin­u­ally be viewed as young­ster when he is due to turn 24 on his next birth­day.

“I am 23 now and there are a lot of play­ers like [Mar­cus] Rash­ford (22), {Er­ling] Haar­land (19), [Kylian] Mbappe (21), [ Trent] Alexan­der Arnold (21), Ansu Fati (17) and oth­ers. Look at the ages of all those and tell me if I should still re­gard my­self as a young­ster?

“So that is why I am mak­ing sure that I must work hard to be in a team like Sun­downs. I can’t be sat­is­fied with just be­ing there, but I must fight to play. For me, a young­ster is an Un­der-20 who is still play­ing in the MDC and look­ing to break into the first team. The mo­ment you are in the se­nior team you are a first team player,” he says.

The men­tion of the con­clu­sion of the sea­son is a mat­ter that he holds close to his heart as well, con­sid­er­ing that Sun­downs re­main in con­tention to win both the league and Ned­bank Cup.

An­other league ti­tle will mean three in a row for the sec­ond time, and a his­toric tenth through the PSL years.

“I know any­thing is pos­si­ble after the league starts but for us, we have to play to win it. I re­ally want to win it this year be­cause this will be a league that I will have won hav­ing played more games than be­fore.

“In pre­vi­ous sea­sons I played less games so this time I have played 13 so far and can still add more. I re­ally want this league ti­tle. It is al­ways the right thing to cel­e­brate be­cause the team won, but if you played and the team won it is a bonus.

“When you have played you can even brag about your achieve­ments when you re­tire be­cause you con­trib­uted,” he con­cludes.

“AS SOON AS THE SEA­SON STARTS, I AM AL­READY WORK­ING TO­WARDS TRY­ING TO MAKE SURE THAT I HAVE 10 GOALS AND 10 AS­SISTS.”

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