The young wing-back is among the hottest prospects at Kaizer Chiefs following an excellent season at Naturena.
Happy Mashiane’s value is now worth more than the gold colour that Kaizer Chiefs wear as he navigates his way towards establishing himself in the first team into his third year at the club. And his contribution has been one of the few positives through the recent slump that Chiefs have gone through. KICK OFF’s Lovemore Moyo travelled to Tembisa to see where it all began for the 23-year-old AmaKhosi star.
Out in the streets of Umnonjaneni, Tembisa, there is always a hive of activity as local children kick soccer balls from sunrise to sunset. In the years that follow, these kids will ultimately take different paths as they seek to make a success of their life.
Kaizer Chiefs winger Happy Mashiane is a product of this system which has fed professional football some of its brightest stars, despite plenty of others disappearing and failing to make it to the top, according to Tembisa Black Pirates director John Fakude.
“We recruited Mashiane to Black Pirates straight from the streets when he was maybe around 10 or so and he grew up here with us in the team,” Fakude says. “I identify kids from the informal games they play.
“I mentored him along with other boys until one of our late coaches, Khanyile, took over as their coach. What used to happen is that whenever there were trials elsewhere, he [Mashiane] would go there on weekends and miss our games, but he
“HE IS STILL GOING TO DO A LOT MORE THAN HE HAS DONE SO FAR FOR CHIEFS.”
would make sure that he tells us, unlike other boys who would just disappear.
“We are just a club from Tembisa and these boys are always looking out for better opportunities elsewhere. He was a kid who loved football and was looking for the next opportunity. He ultimately disappeared for good and went to an academy in the suburbs.
“But while he was with us, it was difficult to register him in our first team in SAFA Ekurhuleni because he was young and didn’t have an ID document yet. Fortunately, instead of just a birth certificate, he also had a passport which allowed for us to register him in our SAB League team.
“It was after that when he left for
another academy and then eventually went to Chiefs. When he was promoted to the first team, he came here with his mom and gave me two Chiefs jerseys.
“He is a boy who has always loved football and is so talented that he can play anywhere on the field, just like our other boy Hitler Makofane, who played for Classic. We are always happy to see our boys succeeding in the game,” says Fakude.
With Mamelodi Sundowns being walking distance from home, Mashiane also played in their development structures but did not last long there.
“It is not surprising at all that Stevovo [Mashiane] has gone all the way to the professional ranks,” says former Tembisa Classic midfielder Martin Matsitela, who also coached the player at Black Pirates.
“This was always bound to happen. This was a boy that was always out to chase the next opportunity and his efforts have made it happen for him. He is still going to do a lot more than he has done so far for Chiefs.
“He was a little kid in our SAB League team but still competed with these older guys all the same, pushing so hard that he was eventually spotted by Ghino Johnson.”
‘Happy stuck with Chiefs’
Johnson, who spotted Mashiane, is a Tembisa businessman whose passion for the game saw him establish the Future Through Football Academy a few years ago with the intention of providing a platform for talented kids from the township.
“When I saw Happy for the first time at Black Pirates, I knew that this young man is going far, so that is why I decided to take him,” says Johnson.
“He was 14 at the time and he always wanted what is now happening. I am not here to take the glory because all I provided was the financial assistance that was needed at the time.
I cannot be the one taking the glory because there were others involved in the Future Through Football Academy.
“Our team has always been about developing players and then feeding them into the professional teams. There was never an intention to make money since we started up to now, even though we stopped for a while because we didn’t have fields.
“We registered the academy and built relationships with Arthur Zwane at Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates’ Augusto Palacios. Having played football myself, I know what talent is and I would take the best to these clubs.
“At some stage we had a game against Chiefs and I just said to Arthur, ‘can you please look at these boys’. I think it was four of them, but others decided to take their own routes and Happy stuck with Chiefs.
“At that time, I had taken another three or so players to Palacios at Pirates because my son was playing there in the juniors. Happy and the other two impressed in the Chiefs development and we tried our best to encourage all of them.
“We were fully supportive of Happy by arranging special transport for him from Tembisa to Naturena all the way until they signed him and he started staying that side,” says Johnson.
“Our team is a feeder to the professional teams so that the boys eventually succeed in life and make a difference. We also train the mindset. which is why I monitor what he is doing with his finances and he already has [investment] policies in place.
“I am his mentor, not an agent, with constant contact with his mother, who I also consult with, and with agents that have already approached him. I am a businessman whose interest is not to make money out of these boys.
“I am helping Happy for life past football based on what I know as a businessman. I met this boy when he was 14 and so I can only guide him into a better person in his adult life,” he notes.
‘The boy has a sweet left foot’
Two years after getting promoted, Mashiane has now moved from being a squad man to a key player and that itself is further proof that the
“I AM HELPING HAPPY FOR LIFE PAST FOOTBALL BASED ON WHAT I KNOW AS A BUSINESSMAN.”
Chiefs development is not all cosmetic.
Despite the team struggling this season, the 23-year-old has been has been playing regularly, scoring goals and providing assists from out wide on the left.
“The boy has a sweet left foot,” says Buti Sithole, who played at Chiefs upon his promotion to the first team as a teenager in 2002.
“He has what most people refer to as a cultured left foot, with the plus being that he is a clever footballer. I always take interest in watching him because I was also a left footer and what I know is that he is destined for greatness. You would think he has been in the first team for many years with his confidence.”
Will he cope to last the distance in a pressure cooker environment at Chiefs?
“What has helped him is that he has quickly adapted and the game time that he is getting will build his experience and confidence. He has been lucky that he has come in and grabbed his chance. When he has the ball, you can see that there is something that he will do, and I am glad he is already in the national Under-23 team.
“It is important that he maintains focus because one mistake, then he might be out. So, there is no need for him to be getting all big-headed. He needs to focus on football and appreciate that the chance he is getting is wanted by many others.
“Those that he left behind in the development, along with opponents, also want to be where he is. Everyone wants your job when you are at Chiefs. He must not make the mistake of thinking that just because he is playing, he starts undermining senior players.
“Just because you are from the development, you shouldn’t think that you will play all your career at Chiefs.
“It is important to stay away from elements related to having many friends who want to be seen to be close to you when you are at Chiefs. I hope his family and friends are the kind that keeps reminding him about focus instead of being afraid to tell him.
“Even if it happens that Chiefs buys another player in his position next season and he is no longer playing, he needs to stay strong in that situation. By then he will need to be aware that for him to start playing, someone else has to make way and in his case, he still has the chance to fight his way back.
“Even when the results are not forthcoming at Chiefs now, his performance remains good and he must keep it that way,” notes Sithole.
For Patrick Mayo, another left footer who played at Chiefs, he believes Mashiane won’t ultimately sink into a disappointment like players who came from the development in previous years.
“I don’t see him turning out to be a kid who comes from the development and ends up being a failure,” says Mayo.
“I just hope he is not disturbed by injuries and for any forward at Chiefs, all that they need to do is just stay in the box because this kid doesn’t delay crossing the ball. He is an efficient winger who doesn’t hang on to the ball to do showboating.
“He plays basic football which means for him as a winger, when he gets the ball, he must deliver a cross into the box. He is the kind of player that can go on to play in Europe because he is not about playing to impress the crowd.
“Modern coaches don’t look at how skilful you are but what you do for the team when you have the ball and what you do when you don’t have it as well. Playing for the team is important.
“I remember a goal that was scored by [Lebogang] Manyama against SuperSport United, it came from a quick delivery by this kid. Some wingers would have preferred to hold on to the ball and first take the man on, but that boy found a small pocket of space and immediately got the ball into the box.
“I know the boy tends to pull an unhappy face when he is pulled out but then I understand that as a kid you always want to play every minute all the time. He will grow to understand that this is football, and you can’t be playing all the games.
“He needs to understand that there comes a time for tactical changes so he will learn and grow. If he doesn’t grow big headed, then he will go far. Chiefs is not usually a club that gives you time to adjust because you are a kid coming from development, so I say credit to the boy for standing up to the challenge of holding it out in a pressure cooker space after being promoted.
“There is always some kind of pressure going on at Chiefs and right now it is the need to get results,” says Mayo.
“EVERYONE WANTS YOUR JOB WHEN YOU ARE AT CHIEFS.”