Memela’s long, wind­ing road takes him to the top


WHILE HIS ca­reer re­mained stag­nant, wan­der­ing in the wilder­ness, Lu­vuyo Memela watched his peers shine and for a brief mo­ment he thought of quit­ting foot­ball.

But Thu­lani Hlatshwayo, his for­mer team­mate at Ajax Cape Town, con­vinced him other­wise and that led to Memela en­dur­ing the long, bumpy road he took to even­tu­ally play for one of the big­gest teams in the coun­try – Or­lando Pi­rates.

“I didn’t quit be­cause I saw my peers suc­ceed­ing and that mo­ti­vated me to also be at their level,” Memela said. “Tyson was my big­gest source of mo­ti­va­tion. He kept en­cour­ag­ing me and told me to not give up be­cause he be­lieved ‘my time will come’.

“His words and how his ca­reer took off mo­ti­vated me. I was at Ajax when the likes of Thu­lani Serero and Ge­orge Maluleka came there and their ca­reers took off. I played with the likes of Cole Alexan­der, Clay­ton Daniels, Day­lon Claasen and Sameehg Doutie. See­ing them grow while my ca­reer re­mained stag­nant helped me be­cause I pushed even harder as I be­lieved I could also make it at the high­est level. But dur­ing the dark times I thought maybe this wasn’t meant for me, that I should quit and fo­cus on school like my mother was telling me.”

Memela is now reap­ing the re­wards of his pa­tience. The 30-year-old is mak­ing a name for him­self at the Buc­ca­neers. He is look­ing to make Pi­rates a home hav­ing strug­gled to set­tle down at his pre­vi­ous clubs. Memela leaped from the ama­teur ranks at Em­bek­weni to join the Ur­ban War­riors where he never played for the first team de­spite spend­ing three years there. He went to Hanover Park in the NFD, then Chippa United be­fore go­ing back to the ama­teur ranks with Cape Town All Stars whom he helped gain pro­mo­tion to the NFD. Pi­rates took him out of the wilder­ness in 2015.

“I know that it’s up to me to play reg­u­larly at Pi­rates,” Memela said. “For me to do that I need to en­sure that I give my all when­ever I am given a chance, no mat­ter how small that chance is. I know where I come from and I don’t want to go back there. Even if we lose, I must leave the field know­ing that I gave it my all and peo­ple who are watch­ing must say that we can’t fault him on any­thing.”

That spirit will be handy for the Buc­ca­neers who visit Mamelodi Sun­downs at Lof­tus Vers­feld to­mor­row af­ter­noon. This will be their first meet­ing at the venue since a sec­tion of Pi­rates’ fans ran amok and in­vaded the pitch last year with vi­o­lent in­ten­tions as the club was dis­man­tled by the Brazil­ians who won 6-0.

“We aren’t even think­ing about that match,” Memela said. “I am not think­ing about that match be­cause that’s in the past. What I know is that there is a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween this team and the one that lost 6-0.

“This team plays foot­ball. There is di­rec­tion. We know what we are do­ing. The bond is stronger. We fight for one an­other and we cover for one an­other. I know that when (In­no­cent) Maela goes for­ward I must cover for him. We are stronger men­tally and are driven. It’s not like we were poor that day. We had chances and we even hit the post. If we had scored early things would have been dif­fer­ent. We will go into this match con­fi­dent af­ter not only win­ning our first match of the year but also scor­ing three goals.”

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