Bucs’ Thabo bounces back from bad breaks

Saturday Star - - SPORT - NJABULO NGIDI

THE dis­ap­point­ment and heartache Thabo Qalinge has suf­fered in his ca­reer and what he has wit­nessed grow­ing up in Soweto makes him ap­proach fame and suc­cess with cau­tion.

“Sec­tion 10”, as the Or­lando Pi­rates mid­fielder is af­fec­tion­ately known, has been a rev­e­la­tion for the Buc­ca­neers this sea­son. He has be­come a con­sis­tent match win­ner with his goals and as­sists.

Tonight he will make his 12th ap­pear­ance for Bucs in their Telkom Knock­out quar­ter-fi­nal against Polok­wane City at Or­lando Sta­dium to match the num­ber of ap­pear­ances he made in the last cam­paign just three months into this sea­son.

“I knew what would hap­pen here when I ar­rived,” Qalinge said.

“In a big team, things don’t al­ways go your way. I knew there would be dif­fi­cult times and there would be great times. I think com­ing with that mind­set helped me be­cause I knew that I wouldn’t just walk into the start­ing XI.

“I knew I would spend some time not play­ing, fight­ing for my place. The big­gest chal­lenge was deal­ing with that. Since I ex­pected it, it was bet­ter.”

Qalinge hasn’t al­ways been this as­sured of him­self or his ca­reer as his dream of be­ing a pro­fes­sional foot­baller al­most ended be­fore it started.

The 26-year-old signed for Su­per­Sport United five years ago in what looked like his big break, but he broke his arm be­fore he even kicked a ball in a com­pet­i­tive match for Mat­sat­santsa a Pi­tori.

His only mem­ory of be­ing with the Tsh­wane side is in the train­ing kit he wore. That dis­ap­point­ment tough­ened Qalinge and shaped him into a per­son who isn’t quick to cel­e­brate small vic­to­ries.

“I grew up in a town­ship. I have seen peo­ple reach the top and then come crash­ing down. I don’t want to fall into that trap too,” he said.

“When things are go­ing well, you have to be hum­ble and just keep work­ing hard be­cause you can al­ways im­prove

“I know that as some­one from the town­ship, I must give peo­ple hope. Where I come from, peo­ple look up to us so I have to do the right things. That’s mo­ti­va­tion to not get car­ried away by this good start but keep im­prov­ing.”

The Buc­ca­neers would do well to lis­ten to that mes­sage and not get car­ried away by their bright start as it hasn’t given them any­thing.

The Knock­out is a chance for Pi­rates to end a three-year tro­phy drought, but it will take some do­ing to get past Rise and Shine. Polok­wane held Bucs to a 2-2 draw right af­ter beat­ing Mamelodi Sun­downs in their own back­yard and be­fore hold­ing Kaizer Chiefs to a goal­less draw this week.

Polok­wane are the only team Pi­rates have man­aged to score twice against. Their strik­ing unit is yet to be lethal. Af­ter be­ing hum­bled by Sun­downs on Wed­nes­day, Pi­rates are driven to give “The Ghost” some­thing to cheer about.

“As a team, we are try­ing to go all out and play our lungs out for our sup­port­ers,” Qalinge said.

“We want to at least win some­thing for them. We haven’t won a tro­phy in a long time. It would be nice to give them some­thing to cel­e­brate and some­thing pos­i­tive to talk about be­cause for a long time they’ve lis­tened to the other fans talk­ing about their achieve­ments.

“It’s sad but the mo­ti­va­tion is that even when we weren’t win­ning, they came to sup­port us. That shows that they love us be­cause if they were just foot­ball fans, they would have stopped com­ing here. We want to make them happy and re­pay them for the faith they have put in us.”

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