Mmileng Third Quar­ter 2018 Cover Star is South Africa Se­nior Na­tional Foot­ball Team’s Full-Back Ramahlwe Mphahlele.

Mmileng - - Contents -

In con­ser­va­tive com­mu­ni­ties like those in ru­ral ar­eas, most par­ents don’t har­bour any am­bi­tions of their chil­dren be­com­ing ca­reer ath­letes, and rather en­cour­age them to pri­ori­tise the ‘se­cure and sus­tain­able’ aca­demic route. But for the mother of Kaizer Chiefs star de­fender Ramahlwe Mphahlele, it was a case of ma­ter­nal in­stinct. She be­lieved in her son’s tal­ent and that he could be some­thing. But the strange part is that his mother had never seen him play, and would be told by peo­ple how much of a pre­co­cious player her son is. A sem­i­nal mo­ment came in the early 2000s when his mother was lis­ten­ing to Tho­bela FM. She heard an an­nounce­ment about a launch of foot­ball acad­emy, and with­out de­lay, alerted her then teenage son to the op­por­tu­nity.

That foot­ball acad­emy, the Tur­floop Sports School of Ex­cel­lence, was be­ing launched north­east in the town­ship of Mankweng in the Polok­wane Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, but in the same Capri­corn Dis­trict Mu­nic­i­pal­ity as his home vil­lage of Ga-Mphahlele. That is the in­tu­itive sixth sense in a wo­man that is hardly wrong. And for Rama, as Mr Mphahlele’s first name is af­fec­tion­ately short­ened, hav­ing had six un­suc­cess­ful tri­als, across both Limpopo and Gaut­eng, it was lucky num­ber 7. He was drafted into the Tur­floop Sports School of Ex­cel­lence in a move that steered his pres­ti­gious youth ca­reer into the now suc­cess­ful pro­fes­sional foot­ball gig.

“Then the fol­low­ing year I moved to Su­per­sport United’s Su­per­sport-Feyeno­ord Acad­emy in Pre­to­ria to play for their Un­der-14 team,” re­calls Mr Mphahlele.

“This was quickly fol­lowed by a de­ci­sive move to Moroka Swal­lows’ Un­der-15s. I stayed with Swal­lows Ju­niors, played through the club’s de­vel­op­ment ranks - the Un­der-17s and Un­der-19s - un­til I was even­tu­ally pro­moted to the se­nior team in 2006.”

His most ap­pear­ances at a PSL club are still with Swal­lows, which has since flown into obliv­ion.

The hum­ble and soft-spo­ken player from Ga-Mphahlele in the Le­pelle-Nkumpi Lo­cal Mu­ci­pal­ity then moved to Mamelodi Sun­downs in 2011/12 to ad­vance his ca­reer.

His stay at Sun­downs in­cluded with a short loan spell to city neigh­bours Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria in 2012/13, cam­paign­ing in the top tier PSL at the time, and ended with the sec­ond of his two league ti­tles and a CAF Cham­pi­ons League win­ner’s medal at Chloorkop.

He joined Chiefs - a club he sup­ported since his boy­hood – for the 2016/17 on a free trans­fer in a ban­ner year that co­in­cided with his big break to the South African Se­nior Foot­ball team, Bafana Bafana, even though his first call-up was a cou­ple months ear­lier when he was still with Sun­downs. He now dishes man of the match per­for­mances at club level week in week out, and is a reg­u­lar call-up to Bafana Bafana.

He has been club cap­tain at all his pre­vi­ous clubs. Mr Mphahlele says his ver­sa­til­ity has had an added ad­van­tage to his ca­reer.

“You know, grow­ing up I started as a right-winger. But I had to set­tle for the right-back po­si­tion be­cause in the am­a­teur ranks in Ga-Mphahlele there was a player nick­named Mkhalele, af­ter Or­lando Pi­rates leg­end Hel­man Mkhalele, who was very good and I knew I couldn’t com­pete with him.”

“At Swal­lows I played at cen­tre-back but from time to time I’d play as a de­fen­sive mid­fielder,” says Mr Mphahlele.

“It’s im­por­tant to be able to adapt to play­ing at least

“Reck­less driv­ers must be re­minded that their ir­re­spon­si­ble ac­tions are rob­bing fam­i­lies of bread­win­ners.”

more than one po­si­tion. It helps your game im­prove.”

The player, who has had the priv­i­lege of rep­re­sent­ing South Africa at the Un­der-17, Un­der-20 and Un­der-23 age groups, even cap­tain­ing the U-17s and U-20s as an estab­lished cap­tain and a stand-in cap­tain in one match at the U-23s, is back on coun­try duty af­ter per­for­mance resur­gence.

But Mr Mphahlele, a third-born among four chil­dren, says grow­ing up in the un­der­de­vel­oped Ga-Mphahlele was never easy, more so be­ing raised by a sin­gle-mother.

“We played a lot of games in the dusty streets. We didn’t have in­fra­struc­ture and it was very dif­fi­cult for us kids at the time. Even go­ing to school was tough be­cause we’d walk long dis­tances, some­times bare­foot. But we made it through de­spite all of that.”

Two of his favourite quotes that he says drive him are, one made fa­mous by re­tired Amer­i­can bas­ket­ball player Charles Barkley: “If you are afraid of fail­ure you don’t de­serve to be suc­cess­ful”, and “Don’t let your strug­gles be­come your iden­tity” a quote that is vi­ral for be­ing up­lift­ing.

In Ga-Mpha­hele he played for am­a­teur foot­ball club Barcelona, and at­tended Tha­gae­tala High School in his home vil­lage of Ditha­ba­neng. He also at­tended Mam­abudusha Sec­ondary School in a vil­lage of Mamot­in­tane, Ga-Mam­abolo on the out­skirts of Polok­wane.

“But things are bet­ter now,” says the now 28-year-old fa­ther of two. “The Limpopo provin­cial gov­ern­ment has worked very hard to im­prove in­fra­struc­ture in the prov­ince. They can still do (even) bet­ter though, but it’s ev­i­dent that the Limpopo De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works, Roads and In­fra­struc­ture, through Roads Agency Limpopo, works hard be­cause we now have more tarred roads than be­fore.”

With Limpopo now hav­ing three Premier Soc­cer League(PSL) clubs for the 2018/19 sea­son in Baroka, Polok­wane City and Black Leop­ards, Mr Mphahlele and his Kaizer Chiefs team will visit the prov­ince at least three times this sea­son.

And the num­ber of vis­its or clubs vis­ited could be even higher should the prov­ince get favourable draw in the cup matchups.

The qual­ity of roads will make it easy to travel to match venues across the prov­ince.

With an aver­age of a soc­cer player a year killed on the coun­try’s roads in re­cent times, Mr Mphahlele is very mind­ful of the safety as­pect of us­ing roads, and cau­tions mo­torists to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own safety and that of oth­ers.

Roads are de­signed for max­i­mum safety and ev­ery stretch of a road is de­signed for a par­tic­u­lar speed. Hence driver be­hav­iour and state of mind, and ad­just­ing to other fac­tors such as weather con­di­tions and road­wor­thi­ness of ve­hi­cles is also cru­cial.

“Ac­ci­dents hap­pen any­where in the coun­try when peo­ple are reck­less. For in­stance, dur­ing the Easter and Christ­mas pe­ri­ods, a per­son would drown them­selves in al­co­hol be­fore hit­ting the road. You can’t blame gov­ern­ment for that. Peo­ple need to be more re­spon­si­ble,” he warns.

“Reck­less driv­ers must be re­minded that their ir­re­spon­si­ble ac­tions are rob­bing fam­i­lies of bread­win­ners.”

Mr Mphahlele is ev­i­dently a fam­ily-ori­en­tated in­di­vid­ual. He talks pas­sion­ately about pro­tect­ing loved ones, par­tic­u­larly his mother and sib­lings.

Mr Mphahlele’s mother lives in Limpopo, while his sis­ter works in Bloem­fontein. The broth­ers are all in Gaut­eng, the first­born work­ing while the last­born is still study­ing.

“My mother is a very strong per­son. I’ll for­ever be grate­ful to my mother for what she did for me, you know. If she had not in­formed me about that acad­emy, I wouldn’t have been where I am to­day.”

“I go home when­ever I can to see my mother. She’s proud of us and we are all proud of the strong wo­man that she is.”

Mr Mphahlele re­cently launched the Ramahlwe Mphahlele Sports Foun­da­tion, with the in­ten­tion of em­pow­er­ing young peo­ple of Limpopo, through ed­u­ca­tion and sport.

“We want to con­duct work­shops and coach­ing clin­ics, and give ad­vice on the im­por­tance of mix­ing ed­u­ca­tion with sport. It doesn’t only have to be soc­cer, but any sport­ing code a child chooses must be ac­com­pa­nied by ed­u­ca­tion.”

For what he has achieved so far in his ca­reer, Mr Mphahlele is rel­a­tively un­der­rated and as unas­sum­ing as a pan­golin.

Right back at you! Mphahlele tightly marked his op­po­site num­ber Matome Kgoetyane of home­town club Baroka FC in a re­cent PSL match at the Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium, Polok­wane.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.