My family was divided on Sundowns
“Every time, he used to tell me not to listen to other people.” “I didn’t care whether I lost a ball or not, I would just be all over the place.”
While many might be of the belief that ‘Golden Arrows ayisafani (is no longer the same)’, what with the dearth of the kind of players who used to make the team so exciting to watch, there can be no doubting that Nduduzo Sibiya belongs to that category of players, and the fact that he is a local strengthens this argument further. No wonder he was said to have attracted the attention of the big teams, most notably Mamelodi Sundowns, two seasons ago, before injury slowed his progress. Now looking to get back to the heights that saw him bag the Nedbank Cup Player of the Tournament, notwithstanding the struggles of the Durban side, the 23-year-old midfielder tells Soccer Laduma’s Celine Abrahams in this interview about his development as a player since making his PSL debut.
Celine Abrahams: Abafana Bes’thende returned to Durban with a point on the weekend, after the 1-1 draw against SuperSport United. Are you satisfied?
Nduduzo Sibiya: It was a big game for us. We have been traveling a lot in the past two weeks – we played three away games in the space of 10 days. Going away to SuperSport, we really needed the three points, but a draw away from home, yeah, we are happy with it even though we would have liked to get those two extra points. We were under a bit of pressure from having so many games played in this short time, but as you saw against SuperSport, we tried our best and we managed to fight back. We did what we could on the day and we are looking forward now to our next game.
CA: It was two minutes before halftime blew that Matsatsantsa a Pitori took the lead. What did coach Clinton Larsen say to you at the break?
NS: He told us that we were playing well and that we needed to be more aware of what was happening in the game. We conceded a soft goal and he told us that in the second half we needed to be stronger at the back and make sure that our opponents don’t find spaces easily. He told us that we must go out and push to get back into the game and that is what we did. Anything could have happened because we had our chances.
CA: Suluman, it’s not been a good start of the season for Golden Arrows. What’s happening?
NS: Yeah, it has been a slow one for us. We needed to sort out a few things and try to get everyone on the same page and I think the recent international break was a good one for us because it gave us the chance to look back at what went wrong. I think we need to work more on scoring goals and keeping our defence solid so that we don’t concede. There were some games where we were supposed to walk away with the three points but didn’t. We need to get good results in order to get the momentum going for us, but I believe things will eventually work out for us. If the results don’t come, then it’s bad because it means that we will be slipping down the log and that is something we don’t want to happen.
CA: Apart from the team’s slump, on a personal note, you have been trying to get back into full fitness after suffering a few niggles along the way. How’s that process been for you?
NS: It has been going well for me. It was hard for me to lose my place in the senior team after I had worked so hard to get there, but I took those challenges and now it’s working out for me again. As you know, my journey here has been a tough one, but I knew that this is what I wanted for my life and I always work hard to be the best that I can be.
CA: Please share with our readers about your rise to stardom.
NS: I grew up in Lamontville and many of the boys there played soccer and had dreams of playing for a professional club. Some of them went to Arrows before me and some of them didn’t make it. It was sad to see that and when they heard that I was going there to try my
luck, they would tell me not to go. I was very young back then, but I thought about it and my family pushed me and told me not to listen to everyone else and just take the chance. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for them because sometimes when you are young you listen to all the people and when you look at those that didn’t make it and they were good players, it makes you wonder if the same will happen to you. I had to trust myself and believe in what I could do. I knew that if I work hard then anything could happen for me.
CA: That was a chance to take!
NS: It was, but I wasn’t alone. My family was there for me, especially my uncle – Ngono Sibiya. He supported me throughout that stage in my life and he used to take me to play all the time. There was this one time where he took me to a tournament where a few teams were playing, and he told me that one day he is also going to see me playing in games too. Every time, he used to tell me not to listen to other people because sometimes they don’t want the best for you. I listened to him and took his advice. My family has played a big NDUDUZO SIBIYA FACT FILE part in my career. There was a chance for me to go to Mamelodi Sundowns when I was still doing grade 11, but they were against that move because they said that I was still too young and they wanted me to be at home, finish my studies and then see what happens after that.
CA: Wow, turning down a move to Sundowns…
NS: It was big! We had played a tournament in Mpumalanga and I did very well there. One of the Sundowns scouts saw me there at the Kay Motsepe Cup and they showed interest in getting me to their club. At that time, I was performing at my highest level. My family was divided – some wanted me to go and some didn’t, and I was in the middle. I was looking at Sundowns where there is a lot of exposure, it’s a big club and the money is there, but I had to think about myself and my game-time. It was hard to turn that down, but I needed to learn more before I could take on that challenge of being away from home and trying to make it at a big team. At that stage, I wasn’t getting paid at Arrows, so some of my family members were telling me that I should go there and start earning money, but sometimes there is more to life than money. I don’t know… maybe if I went there, I would have been getting loaned out or maybe I would have earned my place, but I wasn’t ready for that move. I was in-between be- cause I wasn’t sure (about) what I was going to do at the time. But my family and a few of my friends that I had been playing with since the age of eight spoke to me and they told me to stay and if the opportunity comes again later in my life then at least I would be ready for it.
NS: I also felt that Arrows had given me a good chance and I wanted to do as much as I could to repay them for believing in me so much. I was promoted to the U19 team when I was about 15 or 16 years old and I had been learning a lot. So that’s also why I decided to just stay in the team and wait for another chance to come one day.
CA: It also seems like football runs in the family, as your grandfather, Special Sithole, played for AmaZulu back in the 1980s. Do you think the legacy that he left behind played a part in you wanting to pursue a career in football?
NS: Yes, it did. I didn’t get a chance to watch him play because I wasn’t born at that time, but from what everyone was saying around me about what a good player he was, I wanted to be like him. I wanted to keep that legacy running in my family. I got that chance to start my career at a young age and that opportunity to play in the MDC was very good for me. The MDC helped us a lot because, before that, as the younger players who weren’t in the senior team, we would just go to training and then go sit at home. There was nothing much for us to do and that’s when some players start to mess around because they have a lot of time on their hands to do whatever. When the MDC came in, it gave us a chance to play for something. We, as the young boys, wanted to go into that league and do well for the club. From the first day, we said we wanted to win that league. What also made us work harder was that the coaches told us that if we play well in the MDC then we would get a chance to join the first team. That was big for us! We wanted to play in the PSL, so we gave our all in those games. I think being under the guidance of coaches like coach Vusumuzi Vilakazi and coach Papi Zothwane, who were professional soccer players, helped us a lot to learn more about the game and they gave us good development. They knew how to identify our strengths and our weaknesses. They gave us freedom to play and things worked out well for us. At that time, I used to just play for the fans and not focus on what I could really do and what the team needed me to do, so they used to call me aside and help me.
NS: I was at that point where I just played. I didn’t care whether I lost a ball or not, I would just be all over the place, until they guided me. I always had the talent, but I needed to be… what can I say? I needed to be groomed, you see? They told me that I wasn’t going to go anywhere with that attitude and that I needed to change, so that’s when I started to focus more on the technical side of my game. Now I have grown and I am playing more direct football. I had to learn a lot of things because I wanted to get my place and play in the PSL, but if I was making those little mistakes, then the guys were going to punish me in the league. For any player, you need to grow and learn every day from your mistakes and that is what I’m trying to do.
CA: Unfortunately, injury struck, and you were left out the next season and you had to go back into the MDC. How did that feel?
NS: Eish, that season didn’t work out for me. I was hoping to play more because it was my second season in the first team and I wanted to do better, but it wasn’t meant to be. There was a time where I couldn’t train at all and it was hard for me. That setback killed me emotionally because you see your teammates playing and then you can’t do anything but sit and watch them. It’s hard to go through that. Winning that award meant so much to me and then I had to just sit… tjo, that was hard! I really wanted to play but, eish, the injuries
were too much for me.
CA: Reports that the likes of Sundowns and Orlando Pirates are circling you refuse to go away. What’s happening there?
NS: You know, it is a good thing to have other clubs looking at you and like what you are doing, but I can’t talk too much about those things because I am here at Arrows. Maybe one day I will be playing for the big teams in the country, but my job is to put my team first and do well for them.
CA: Suluman, all the best going forward!
NS: Thank you so much. To discuss this interview with Celine, tweet her on