Bento: Chang­ing agents cost me

Soccer Laduma - - Front Page -

“I would prob­a­bly still be at Sun­downs if I didn’t leave that agency.” “I didn’t know what I was do­ing.”

When lit­tle-known Flavio Bento joined Mamelodi Sun­downs from Aca­dem­ica de Coim­bra in 2014, the gen­eral ex­pec­ta­tion was that he would be among the group of play­ers to take over the ba­ton from some of the age­ing mem­bers of the squad and, in the process, help main­tain the club’s stan­dards. Yet the three years the mid­fielder was at Chloorkop were marked by first team in­ac­tiv­ity, as he fea­tured mostly in the club’s Multi Choice Diski Chal­lenge team. As Soc­cer Lad­uma’s Lunga Adam learns in this in­ter­view, it turns out there was more to this lack of first team ac­tion than the pub­lic would have been made to be­lieve, and the for­mer Jomo Cos­mos youth player does not hide his dis­ap­point­ment and re­gret at the turn of events. He is now in Cyprus and, like a jilted lover who has found new ro­mance, try­ing as much as he could to put it all be­hind him. Read on!

Lunga Adam: Flavio, let’s take this op­por­tu­nity to wel­come you to the pages of Soc­cer Lad­uma. We haven’t heard anything from or about you since you left Mamelodi Sun­downs more than a year ago. What’s hap­pen­ing with you right now?

Flavio Bento: Things are go­ing good, I can’t com­plain and ev­ery­thing is on the right track. I’m cur­rently at Karmi­o­tissa in the Second Di­vi­sion in Cyprus – it’s sort of like the Na­tional First Di­vi­sion in South Africa. Last sea­son I was play­ing for APEP Pit­silia in the Third Di­vi­sion and I did well there. I scored in the first two games of the sea­son, I was per­form­ing well and then I had in­ter­est from an­other Second Di­vi­sion team, not the one I’m play­ing for now. At the time, I got in­jured. January came, the trans­fer win­dow closed and noth­ing hap­pened (re­gard­ing a move). Then this sea­son I got called by the one agent I’m work­ing with this side and he said, “Look, there’s this op­por­tu­nity, would you be in­ter­ested?” I signed a year-on-year con­tract with the club and we are look­ing to go up to the First Di­vi­sion. Things are look­ing good and we are three points be­hind the log lead­ers, who are one of the favourites to go up, with 13 games played so far.

LA: Why did you think Cyprus was a good des­ti­na­tion for you?

FB: When my con­tract was ter­mi­nated at Sun­downs, I ex­pressed a wish to come back to Europe and then Cyprus came about af­ter I was in­vited to train with a club here. When I first came here, I saw how highly they rate Por­tuguese play­ers and I thought this could be an op­por­tu­nity for me and then I chose to play here. Look, I would have stayed if Sun­downs had ex­tended my con­tract.

LA: One would then ask why you chose to leave be­hind all the com­fort, the fame, the glam­orous life­style that comes along with be­ing a pro­fes­sional foot­baller to set­tle for lower league foot­ball in an ob­scure coun­try?

FB: (Goes silent for a few sec­onds) Look, it’s a tough ques­tion. I guess as good as the money was at Sun­downs, it would be bet­ter in Europe. It’s much bet­ter in Europe once you reach a high level. Yes, the life was nice back in South Africa, I agree with that, but there’s more to foot­ball than that.

LA: How do you look back at your time with Sun­downs, where you were seen as a fu­ture prospect but never re­ally nailed down a place in the start­ing line-up?

FB: I’m grate­ful for the time that I had there. It’s a pity that I wasn’t given what I was promised. I was promised game-time but it never came. Some­times in foot­ball things hap­pen that are just be­yond your con­trol and you just have to sol­dier on. But ja, if you look at the play­ers that I played with in the MDC, like Tiyani Mabunda and Mot­jeka Madisha, they even­tu­ally got their op­por­tu­nity, but I never got my op­por­tu­nity.

LA: How did that feel?

FB: I am still dis­ap­pointed to this day, but be­cause of what hap­pened be­hind the scenes, I have learned from those mis­takes.

LA: What hap­pened be­hind the scenes?

FB: Hmmm... let’s put it this way... the agent that I signed with at Sun­downs ( Ash­ley Kotzin)... once I left that agent, then all of a sud­den I for­got how to play foot­ball. So, agents, money, coaches, you know... LA: It must have been a tough space to find your­self in. FB: For sure, hey. Def­i­nitely. But you learn from your mis­takes. I should never have left that agency I had signed up with at Sun­downs. I would prob­a­bly still be at Sun­downs if I didn’t leave that agency and re­ceived that op­por­tu­nity that I was promised.

LA: So why did you leave the agency?

FB: It’s be­cause at my time at Downs, I got a se­ri­ous in­jury, which kept me out for seven months. Dur­ing those seven months, not once did I re­ceive a call from the agency, say­ing, “Hey, how are you do­ing? How’s the re­cov­ery go­ing?” and all that. That was the main rea­son why I left him. LA: It’s ex­pected of a player to be

judged solely on abil­ity. Do you think it was fair that you were not played sim­ply be­cause, as you say, you changed agents?

FB: Ob­vi­ously, it’s not fair, but I guess when you haven’t made a name for your­self, things like that will hap­pen. Once you make a name for your­self, no one can say, ‘Hey, this guy is not a good player.’ Things that hap­pen be­hind the scenes influence the game, you know.

LA: Did you ever ask ques­tions then? FB: No, I never asked ques­tions. I ac­cepted what hap­pened.

LA: What was coach Pitso Mosimane say­ing to you all along?

FB: The coach and I had a close re­la­tion­ship. When I was with that agent, the coach would come and talk to me. When I left that agent guy, he changed dra­mat­i­cally. Dras­ti­cally.

LA: How so?

FB: I was put aside, you know. All of a sud­den, I had for­got­ten how to play soc­cer. I didn’t know what I was do­ing. I was put aside and used in the MDC. But I think the MDC is a good ini­tia­tive. I played there, kept push­ing and hop­ing that one day I would make a name for my­self in the se­nior team, but it never hap­pened.

LA: How did you keep your­self mo­ti­vated dur­ing what must have been a frus­trat­ing pe­riod?

FB: There was a stage where I wanted to give up. It was hard.

LA: What were the MDC boys at Sun­downs say­ing to you through­out?

FB: They didn’t re­ally say much to me. They also kept mo­ti­vat­ing me, want­ing the best out of me and I kept push­ing.

LA: When your con­tract was ter­mi­nated, did you feel re­lieved or dis­ap­pointed?

FB: It was a bit­ter­sweet mo­ment. Yes, I wanted to stay – the money was good, the pro­fes­sion­al­ism there was good. But then I wanted to be out there and to make a name for my­self. I en­joyed be­ing back in South Africa and play­ing in the Absa Premier­ship though. It was a fast-paced game, with a lot of good play­ers and I had lots of chances to learn from those good play­ers

LA: Some might not be aware that you had ac­tu­ally been play­ing in Por­tu­gal for a while be­fore Sun­downs. Tell us more about your time there…

FB: I was there for two years at ju­nior level at Aca­dem­ica de Coim­bra. I got called up two or three times to train with the first team, but noth­ing ma­te­ri­alised from that. LA: Thanks for your time and for shar­ing your story with us, Flavio. FB: Thanks. ❐

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