Motloung: She never gave up on me
For Nicholas Motloung, recently scoring against Kaizer Chiefs must have felt like bumping into your primary school teacher, who said you would never amount to anything in life, at a glamorous event in Sandton. He turned out for Amakhosi’s MultiChoice Diski Challenge side, but was considered not good enough and had to look for a new footballing home, which is why he displayed such intense emotions after scoring a cracker and earning the Man of the Match award in that game. Putting past disappointment behind him, Motloung believes this is just the start of good things in his career, while also attributing his good performances for Polokwane City to a number of factors. In this interview, the central defender tells Soccer Laduma’s Celine Abrahams what keeps him going.
Celine Abrahams: Mbazo, you guys beat Maritzburg United 1-0 at home over the weekend. You must be pleased about collecting all three points, which sees you moving up to fourth place on the Absa Premiership log standings!
Nicholas Motloung: I think we performed well and did what we needed to do on the day. We stuck to the plan of our coach (Jozef Vukusic). Maritzburg are not an easy team to play against and we knew that they were going to attack us. We had to stop them from coming at us and be stable in defence.
CA: Orlando Pirates, whom you have up next, is going to be a hard nut to crack.
NM: We have to work and prepare for that one because it is a big game for us and we need the three points. We know that Pirates are a big team with very good players, and we have this week to prepare for them. We will look at them and study their games to make sure that we have a good plan to take them on. The coach is happy that we are playing a big team and, as players, you don’t really need much motivation from anyone because it is already there. Personally, I just want to work hard again this week to make sure that I get a chance to face them and help my team win.
CA: Your performance in the Absa Premiership match against Kaizer Chiefs in early October caught the eye as you walked away with the Man of the Match award. More touching were the emotions you displayed. What brought about the tears?
NM: Eish, it was a good feeling for me to play against my former team. That already had a lot of meaning for me, to have that opportunity. Getting the Man of the Match (award) was a great thing not only for me but for my family and my team because all of our hard work into getting my career to where it is now is starting to pay off. Yes, I was a bit emotional because I am working hard to bring out the best in me and the coach has been pushing me every day at training since I joined the first team. So it was a great feeling for me. I remember playing against Chiefs while I was still at one of my hometown teams in the SAB League. I got a call after that game from coach Ace Khuse; he said to me that I should come and train with them. Obviously, I agreed to that because… who would turn down a chance like that? This was in 2014 and I was still doing matric at the time. CA: Okay. NM: I went there for a trial and eventually signed with the MDC team. Unfortunately, in 2015 I got injured at Vasco da Gama because Chiefs had sent me there. I picked up a knee injury and I honestly thought that was the end of my career, at such a young age. I had to sit out for the whole of 2015 without playing a single game and that was hard for me to handle, but my mum was there to help me through it. After suffering that longterm injury, I went back to Chiefs and the team had changed coaches – coach Ace was no longer in charge and coach Arthur (Zwane) was there. I didn’t get a chance and I had to move, and that’s when Polokwane City saved me.
CA: It happens a lot that when a new coach comes in, some players suddenly find themselves out of favour.
NM: Maybe the coach wanted someone else. Maybe he didn’t see what coach Ace saw in me… I don’t really know. But it wasn’t anything personal because everything was okay. We were fine with each other, it’s just that I wasn’t getting my chance and, to be honest with you, it really hurt me. I wanted to play and do well there be
cause it is every young boy’s dream to play for a big club and that didn’t happen for me. I was heartbroken, but I thought to myself that I would rather go somewhere else and try to better myself than sit there and cry about my situation at the club. Polokwane City saved me and helped me to believe in myself again.
CA: Back to that match, Mbazo – we also hear that the game meant more to you than just playing against your former side…
NM: I lost my father in 2010 and then my sister after that, so my performance was dedicated to them. (Clears throat) I know that they are looking down on me and I want to make them proud, as well as my mother. I really love my mother and, right now, I am working for her. That game meant more than just a game for me – that game made me feel on top of the world. Without the help of my teammates, my coach and my mother, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did on the day. Guys like Mohammed Anas, Ayanda Nkili and all the other experienced players always make time to talk to me at our training sessions and they tell me that I must work hard and improve in every game. After getting that Man of the Match award now, I have to push harder.
CA: All these challenges and you are only 23 years of age!
NM: Yeah, but I think it all made me stronger. You know, one has to face serious challenges in life because that’s how you learn. That success doesn’t come through taking things on an easy road. If you want to be the best, you have to face those things and sometimes it is not nice and it brings you down, but if you want to achieve different things, then you have to face everything that comes your way. Sometimes you also have to fail in life and then learn from those things in order to be the best. Sometimes when that door that you walk through is not your door and it closes, you question yourself, but one needs to realize that there is another door that is going to open again and it might be the one that is meant for you. My door opened here at Polokwane and I know that this is what was meant for me. All those things that I went through before were setting me up for something better. I don’t regret anything and I don’t regret my time at my former club. I work hard every day and I don’t take anything for granted because I know what it is like not to have things go your way.
CA: A very philosophical take. Go on…
NM: When I look back now, it was a bit difficult for me because at home we were not wealthy and I couldn’t get things that I wanted and that’s when I saw that I had to work hard if I want to get the things we want and the things I want. I worked hard to get where I am now and I don’t want to stop because there is more that I can do. I have goals that I want to achieve and I won’t achieve them by just being happy with what I have done. Everything is all about hard work because I really work hard, I don’t want to lie to you. I also know that there are other young players who are going through hard times and I want to be that example to them. CA: We can only imagine. NM: It was so, so difficult. After a year of not playing soccer, I had to come back and find my feet again. It was like starting to learn how to walk again. And talent will only get you to a certain place, so I knew that I had to give it my all to get back. I want to thank the coach for giving me a chance and the chairman (Johnny Mogaladi) for believing in me. I want to thank everyone who is in my life right now because they helped me get up. From the first day that I trialed here, I have felt the love. I played in the MDC team before I got to the senior team – I played 13 games and I got a call from our office in June this year and they told me that I was getting promoted to the first team. That’s when I began pre-season with the first team. CA: Tell us more about that phone call. NM: Yho, it was a great feeling when I got that call because this is something I had been wanting for such a long time. I even cried when I got the call and when I had finished talking to the guy from our office I called my mother in tears. She couldn’t even hear myself properly (laughs) and she even thought something bad happened to me. She came back home to hear the story and I told her that I got promoted. That is a moment I will always cherish because it changed our lives. Even she started to cry because she has been there for me through everything. Every time I needed her, she was there. She never gave up on me and I will always be there for her. I think my mother is a hero. She is my hero! CA: It’s clear that it took a great deal of determination on your side to get to where you are now. It’s a precious quality so lacking in many young footballers nowadays. NM: Discipline is my first priority. I think discipline takes people further in life, so that is something I think of every day. I don’t get involved in things that I shouldn’t be doing. I am always working on making myself a better player and it is working for me.
CA: You said the coach put you into the lion’s den. How so?
NM: Yeah, the coach has seen something in me and he saw that I was always fighting at training, so him putting me in a match against a big team like Chiefs made me realise that he trusts me and he believes in what I can offer the team. There are other experienced players in the team, but he gave me the chance and I am grateful for that. I am not the most experienced player here, but he makes me feel like I can take on anything. He is a good coach and he believes in all of his players. I really like working with him because he has taken me under his wing. We have a good squad and we are all working to make sure that we do well for the club. He is always there for us and it’s nice to have a coach that is willing to help his players to be the best.
CA: Mbazo, we hope you stay on the right track then.
NM: Thanks, sisi. I appreciate it.
“Polokwane City saved me and helped me to believe in myself again.”