Siphiwe Tshabalala talks living his dream in Turkey
He’s always wanted to play overseas and now Siphiwe Tshabalala can tick that goal off his bucket list
HE’S achieved every milestone he set for himself. Playing professional football, getting into the Premier Soccer League, then representing his country in the game he loves – all done. But there was one dream he’d patiently been waiting and praying for and now Siphiwe Tshabalala (33) is living it.
He left SA to play overseas after signing with Turkish club Erzurumspor on a two-year deal. And so far the move has been great, he tells DRUM, just weeks after he made his first appearance for his new team.
We catch up with him in a telephonic interview between training sessions with his new home club.
“I’m probably more famous in Turkey than I am at home,” he jokes. Then, more seriously, adds that working overseas is a dream come true.
His success is due to his hard work and his wife Bokang’s prayers, Siphiwe says. “I sat down with my wife, I informed her about this deal and she was very supportive and gave me her full blessing.”
He calls her the boss lady. “She dreams my dreams and she is my prayer warrior. I’m blessed to have her.”
Shabba, as he’s affectionately known by his fans, can’t wait to make his mark in Turkey. So far he seems to be on the right track, with the team announcing they gained thousands of new Twitter followers since his move. Hundreds of supporters welcomed him at the airport.
“My dream was to be one of the best footballers in the country – play for Chiefs, represent South Africa and play abroad,” he says.
“This deal came at the right time. God’s timing is perfect,” he says, referring to critics who said he was too old for the move.
“People this side have been amazing since I arrived – very loving and excited that I joined the team.”
They are fascinated by him, even paying a lot of attention to his isiphadla (traditional bracelet). “They love it.”
SIPHIWE has been a firm fan favourite since he made his debut in the PSL. He cemented his place in their hearts when he scored the opening goal in the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa.
The dream began in Phiri, Soweto, where he kicked the ball around with friends after school. He started playing for the junior Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows team as a child.
Alexandra United gave him his big break when they signed him to the first team in 2004 at the age of 19.
“I was probably the youngest and the shortest in the team and I guess I was undermined because of my height.”
He earned a meagre R200 a month and was devastated when he showed the money to his parents, Isaac (54) and the late Rebecca.
But they gave him the best advice he’s had, he says. “They said I have been playing football all my life without receiving a cent because of the love and passion I have for the game so I must continue doing what I love.”
And that is exactly what he did, inspiring a generation of players with his rise to the top. He hopes to keep motivating young stars. “Work hard, believe in yourself and don’t listen to naysayers – just keep on going.”
His time with the national team may have come to a halt, but he hasn’t shut the door on representing Bafana Bafana again. “Playing for the national team is every footballer’s dream,” he says. “I’m grateful I got the opportunity to collect 89 caps and I still want to play for the national team. I will do so only if I deserve to.” He’s come a long way from the teenager who earned that R200. Last year The South African reported Siphiwe was one of the top five highest earners in the PSL, taking home up to R380 000 a month.
But money means nothing to his wife, Bokang (32). The former Miss South Africa never stopped believing he would get his dream of playing overseas, she tells DRUM proudly.
“We’ve been praying for this for a very, very long time for him and I’m just so proud.”
She adds that “there is nothing as beautiful as watching the person you love with all your heart live his dream.”
Even though she’s happy for him, she
‘Work hard, believe in yourself and don’t listen to naysayers’
misses him, she says. He’s currently living in Turkey on his own, but Bokang will be making monthly trips to see him.
“This guy is my ride or die, he is my bruh and I’m so used to having him around so it’s bittersweet – but the sweet by far overclouds the bitter,” she says.
Their son, Owethu (3), also misses his daddy. “At first he thought Daddy is going to camp and he will come back like usual,” she recalls.
Now he often takes Bokang’s phone to look at pictures of his father. “They FaceTime all the time and give each other kisses on the phone, which is so cute.”
BOKANG is focusing on their business interests while her husband is away. Along with being an executive producer and owning her own PR company, Bokang and Siphiwe have teamed up to launch a kids’ clothing line called SB Kids – which will be available at a major retail store from the end of this month.
The line is based on the characters Super Shabba and Princess Bokang, which the former beauty queen says are about inspiring the African child. “We decided to create this clothing brand because we want to spread hope,” she says. “We’ve been this blessed so we can inspire and give hope to other kids like us. We just want to change the mindset of kids in the townships who are told they are not good enough and let them know there is a different path they can take.”
Shabba hopes his work and achievements will be remembered long after he’s hung up his boots. “My greatest legacy will be the lives I’ve touched. I want to let my work do the talking.”
He’s had a great career so far, he reflects. “I have reached milestones, broke records, won trophies, achieved a lot. My passion, hard work, perseverance, belief and faith are what keep me going.”
LEFT: Siphiwe Tshabalala, who’s made a successful move to Turkish side Erzurumspor at age 33.
FROM FAR LEFT: Siphiwe with wife Bokang, who he calls his “prayer warrior”; the couple’s three-year-old son, Owethu, is missing his dad but they FaceTime regularly; Shabba with his idol, Doctor Khumalo, and former Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela.