The good thing about the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge is that footballers who played in this tournament and went on to play at a professional level have returned to guide the younger ones.
As a point of departure, ex Free State Stars defender-cum-midfielder Katlego Mashego represents professionals who’ve played at the highest level and still see value in participating at the tournament currently underway at Nike Football Training Centre in Klipspruit, Soweto, until December 29.
The 33-year-old is now leading by example as captain in the colours of defending champions, Sneke Chillers, who are showing good early form.
On Friday, Sneke won 3-0 against Major 1 Academy.
This was following up on their impressive 5-1 victory over Zola Amagents on day one of the tournament.
For Mashego winning is important, but just as good as giving back through the tournament, which is in 17th edition since it was first played in 2002.
“I’m enjoying myself and you know, some of the boys must learn from me,” states Mashego.
“If I start doing the wrong things, they would get some bad habits from me.”
True to his word, Mashego has kept the Sneke team grounded. As much as they enjoy some showboating and the fans rally behind them, you’d notice that it’s done at a time when they know the opponent is down and out, with no prospect of fighting their way back into the match.
Mashego continues: “I must teach them the right things. They must see me doing the right things, before I even talk to them. I keep it simple and I’m not the best of the players we have and I can’t dribble. My job is to get the ball and pass it around, then we get the goals and they can do their things (showboating). I always tell them that when you get inside the field you work hard and get the goals, then you can do your things.”
He sees a lot of potential across the teams that are participating in the tournament.
Having said that, Mashego believes the current crop of players are capable of following in his footsteps from playing in the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge to the topflight, the same way this year’s ambassadors Sibusiso Vilakazi (Mamelodi Sundowns), Zakhele Lepasa (Orlando Pirates) and Amanda Mthandi (University of Johannesburg and Banyana Banyana) also came through.
“These players are going far as well, but they must be disciplined to make it,” he says.
Sneke, meanwhile, have their opponents chasing the shadows and looking good to retain the title they won last year. Mashego is cautious, however, given the tough competition.
“We have to retain it, even though we didn’t play (as good) as we wanted (against Major 1 Academy).
“It’s probably because some of the players we had in the first game were not there (due to other commitments). But we managed the game and we got the points. We are moving and it’s one game at a time,” he says.
“The opponents have to be scared of us. The first game we won 5-1 and the second one 3-0. We are playing better football; we are moving the ball around, so when you come to us you should know that you are going to get a hammering.
“It’s not going to be easy though because this is a difficult tournament,” Mashego adds.