Buhle Mkhwanazi is a perfect example of how rapidly a life of a footballer can change!
Two seasons ago he was on top of his game, playing for Bafana Bafana and Bidvest Wits and a few months down the line he was clubless – struggling with mental life.
According to the Mental Health Federation of South Africa, more than 17 million people in the country are dealing with depression, substance abuse, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia – illnesses.
Mkhwanazi, who fell out of love with football after the sale of Wits is one of those who overcame their depression and he is now back in the Premiership in the colours of SuperSport United.
“The desire and passion of football was gone and it came within to have the love and get the passion going again as I was on top, playing regular football. No footballer would want to go through what I went through. This thing can drive away a footballer. It can make you do things that you don’t want to do,” said Mkhwanazi in an interview with the SA Journalists’ Association (Safja).
“It was not easy and I thank God that I managed to deal with it, my mental side of things and I got to learn how to live once you have been taken away a bit from what you love, from what you do everyday. And I never followed football that much because obviously, I was thinking I was supposed to be there. I would train but it was not football oriented, it was just me taking care of myself, nobody, health.
“But on a daily basis, from the time the league started last season I just put my boots out of sight and adjusted to the situation I was in,” explained the former Wits defender.
While in the wilderness without a club and a salary, Mkhwanazi had to rely on his savings for his family’s upkeep, but his accounts soon dried up.
“What I managed to do in football within a short space of time really didn’t put much stress in terms of the properties that I have. I just had to deal with levies and rates. I am not paying any bond, even the cars as well, the same thing,” he said.
“I tried to save as much and tried to pressurize myself in not living a life that is luxurious, tried a life full of savings. But you reach a point where your savings eventually run out and you wonder what is going to happen. There was no salary, no income and on top of that, my family, they are relying on me, on my salary and it became a challenge for them.
“Savings dried up and I would rely on having that R100 a day and I began to appreciate the little things and ended up being more grateful. When you have a lot of money you don’t think of small things, you don’t think certain things matter but the moment you dry up you become humble. I reached that point and learned the secret of living with plenty and also of living with nothing.”
How the 31-year-old Mkhwanazi with 16 caps for Bafana Bafana struggled and failed to get a club in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) after the sale of Bidvest remains a mystery.
The defender revealed that he didn’t get any concrete offers from any club including the ‘big three’ until SuperSport United came knocking recently.
“Other offers? Honestly, people just give you a call just to see your whereabouts and your mental state in terms of joining their clubs but there was no concrete offer to say here’s something, look at it and consider it.
“There was nothing concrete from the clubs that were reported in the media, I just wanted to go to TTM and honour my contract which never happened.”
“The move to SuperSport they called me, about five weeks ago and they just said to me just come and train with us and have a feel of playing again.
“And funny enough, immediately on the first day, the love and passion just came back, and they were amazed at my condition and it made it easier for me and for them to say we can sign this guy and play him anytime. And within a few days, they wanted to sign me.”
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By Tokelo Mokhesi