Mot­loung: She never gave up on me

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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.”

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