Bril­liant Khuzwayo hangs up his boots

An in­jury has forced Bril­liant Khuzwayo to hang up his boots, but he tells DRUM he’s still part of the foot­ball fra­ter­nity

DRUM - - Contents - BY SIYABONGA DZIMBILI PIC­TURE: FANI MAHUNTSI

HE WAS hop­ing this would be his chance to re­ally live up to his name. His time at Or­lando Pi­rates would show that Bril­liant suits him per­fectly. But Nhlanhla Bril­liant Khuzwayo never re­alised his dream. It ended be­fore it even be­gan with him run­ning out for Pi­rates only once. He’s ac­cepted his fate af­ter an an­kle in­jury ended his dream of achiev­ing great glory with the Buc­ca­neers.

At the age of 29 he’s hung up his boots be­cause he can’t play at the level he needs to.

It was the tough­est de­ci­sion of his life to give up play­ing but it needed to be done, he tells DRUM.

He’d been for count­less con­sul­ta­tions with spe­cial­ists, but he’s now de­vel­oped arthri­tis in his an­kle.

There’s no treat­ment he hasn’t tried, he says.

“But once you have arthri­tis it’s very dif­fi­cult to com­pete on an elite level of foot­ball.”

In­juries are a part of the game and he knows this, hav­ing played with them be­fore.

“But it be­comes a prob­lem when the in­jury be­comes se­vere. I have a knee in­jury that is not trou­bling me. I used to have a shoul­der in­jury which had mod­er­ate pain lev­els.

“Ev­ery ath­lete has some sort of pain but as long as it is mod­er­ate you can play with it.

“I can­not play any­more be­cause my an­kle prob­lem is se­vere.”

‘It’s very dif­fi­cult to com­pete on an elite level’

THE Um­lazi-born goal­keeper, who be­gan his foot­ball ca­reer with the AmaZulu FC de­vel­op­ment side as a teen, was ecstatic when Amab­hak­ab­haka signed him in June last year. “Des­tiny has brought me back to Pi­rates. I am grate­ful for that,” he said at the time, adding that his mis­sion was “to take Pi­rates to the next level”.

The mem­ory of his old friend, the late Senzo Meyiwa – who was also from Um­lazi and who had been the Buc­ca­neers goal­keeper at the time of his death in 2014 – in­spired Bril­liant to make the move from Kaizer Chiefs.

Like many pro­fes­sional ath­letes Bril­liant has had his share of in­juries, but his knee and shoul­der prob­lems didn’t keep him off the pitch. Yet an an­kle frac­ture, the re­sult of an in­jury dur­ing trai­ning, saw him spend­ing time on the bench.

He went un­der the knife for it in Au­gust last year then kept on train­ing, de­ter­mined to ful­fil his dream. Fans were re­lieved to see him back where he be­longed when Pi­rates beat Chippa United 2-1 in the Mul­tiChoice Diski Chal­lenge in Jan­uary this year.

Ahead of that game he urged his fol­low­ers to be patient, say­ing he wasn’t go­ing to rush back into the game. But that would be the only game he’d play for the Bucs. His life has been a glorious dream for the past 10 years, he shares.

Some of the mo­ments that will for­ever stay with him in­clude his in­ter­na­tional de­but for Bafana Bafana in 2012, sign­ing with Chiefs and play­ing for them against Pi­rates in the MTN 8 fi­nal at Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium in 2014.

“That game was in Dur­ban, my home­town. It was a game that brought a lot of emo­tions. In the poles was me against Senzo Meyiwa, who was also from the area. My re­la­tion­ship with him at the time was that of a scholar and teacher.

“He was grooming me. He used to make sure ev­ery­thing was in or­der for me back in Joburg. So at that mo­ment it was time to see who was the best be­tween us,” he says, chuck­ling.

Bril­liant came out tops when Chiefs beat Pi­rates 1-0.

He will al­ways trea­sure the friend­ships he’s made in the foot­ball fra­ter­nity, es­pe­cially those who taught him the ins and outs of the beau­ti­ful game, on and off the pitch.

“I made sure when I moved to Joburg

I didn’t just make friends, but brothers and family,” he says. “Getting advice from people who have your best in­ter­ests at heart makes all the dif­fer­ence.”

He lists those clos­est to him, “Tsepo Masilela, Siyabonga Nkosi, Mor­gan Gould, Reneilwe ‘ Yeye’ Let­sholonyane, Itume­leng Khune and Senzo Meyiwa, to name a few. Those guys took me un­der their wings. I con­sider Siyabonga Nkosi my brother be­cause we come from the same area.”

THE end of his soc­cer ca­reer “is not the end of the world”, Bril­liant says. “I’m still part of the foot­ball fra­ter­nity. I’m just out­side the pitch now. I got into foot­ball for the love of it, not be­cause of money, so that pas­sion is still there.

“As much as money can pay the bills, you need to fol­low what you love first be­cause the day the money is no more, you will still be able to fall in love with what you do.

“I’m happy to say I’ve lived my dream and God de­cided that it ends here. It has been 10 years, and I’m lucky enough to have spent a decade in foot­ball and to have made an im­pact on people’s lives. That is all that mat­ters to me.”

His next chap­ter will be find­ing a new path. “You can­not worry about the things which you can­not change,” he notes, sagely.

His back-up plan has al­ways been soc­cer. There was no plan B for him that didn’t in­volve the sport, he says.

“So­ci­ety will al­ways tell you to have a plan B, get a BCom de­gree in ac­count­ing, or some­thing.”

But there is still a place for him in foot­ball, he ex­plains. “You be­come a coach or an as­sis­tant coach, you be­come a tech­ni­cal direc­tor, you can also start your own de­vel­op­ment side, or you can be­come a pre­sen­ter or an an­a­lyst. That is where we ma­noeu­vre.”

He’s con­sid­er­ing train­ing to be­come a coach. “And at age 35 I can be done with my Fifa li­cence and I can

I’m happy to say I’ve lived my dream’

start coach­ing.”

He ac­cepted his lot, he says. “It was either I re­tire or I die. People could have wo­ken up to news of my death or of my re­tire­ment, so which one is bet­ter?”

His fu­ture is not yet set but help­ing kids is part of it, he says, as too few foot­ballers are be­ing prop­erly de­vel­oped from an early age.

“There are so many rugby fields in schools com­pared to soc­cer. We don’t have a six-, seven- or eight-year-old de­but player be­ing prop­erly de­vel­oped. We barely have play­ers de­but­ing at 16. Most play­ers sign con­tracts in their late teens and only de­but in their 20s.”

He’d like to get in­volved with de­vel­op­ing tal­ent in Dur­ban, he says. “That is where I was born and bred. I would like to put my hand up to try to as­sist.”

ABOVE: Bril­liant moved from Kaizer Chiefs to Or­lando Pi­rates last year. ABOVE RIGHT: With his friend, Chiefs goalie Itume­leng Khune. RIGHT: Bril­liant made four ap­pear­ances for Bafana Bafana.

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