When Siphelele Mthembu got rolled over in a car accident back in 2011, the then 24-year old Orlando Pirates striker went to his church’s bishop, Mar-Angel, to inform her of the incident and what had been bothering his mind.
Being the youngest of the nine children which were born to his parents, Mthembu was now left with three siblings and his mother to take care of. His father, the head of the Mthembu family, had passed away two years before he signed for Orlando Pirates back in 2008.
Seeing some of his family members pass away over the years while he was clawing his way to crack it into the professional scene, is what bothered the now AmaZulu centre-forward greatly.
“I used to be missed by cars while I was growing up,” Mthembu says. “And this thing of seeing most of my family members passing away over the years, bothered me greatly. I always used to wonder: ‘Who’s next’. We were now four of the nine children which were born to my parents.
“It is only after that I had met up with Bishop Mar-Angel that she explained that the accident was part of the prevailing thoughts that I had held on to over the years,” Mthembu adds.
“I had been giving these past traumas of losing family members power over me that I had started to wonder who was going to die next. She explained that the accident I was involved in was a result of that, and that I needed to pay attention to what I gave my energies and thinking to. This simple lesson changed my whole life since I started applying it.
“To date, I still pay attention to my thoughts and the type of energies I give to others – be it on or off the field… and that’s because you always get back what you give out.”
Out on the field, with the pressure of having to perform and score goals in a one-year deal he has penned down with Usuthu, Mthembu insists that he doesn’t focus his energies on being the only striker who pounces for goals. That, the now 34-year old forward believes, will work against what Usuthu has set out to achieve this season. “We want to win trophies and do well both in the league and on the continent, too,” he says.
Off the field, ‘Shaka Zulu’ as the stocky attacker is affectionately known, has become the engine that continues to push the Mthembu family forward, empowering his nephews and nieces to pursue their dreams and education.
“I’ve got a few of my nephews and nieces which I have put in the time and financial backing to assist wherever I can in helping them to reach for their dreams in academics. One has completed a Tourism and Teaching degree and is planning to study even further pursuing a new course.
“The other one is pursuing studies in Neurology while the other two are doing Business and Construction related studies. I have a few others who are still coming up and are yet to finish up in high school. I am grateful to have been granted this favour from above of assisting where I can in my family. Such contributions go a long way in changing the whole narrative of one’s family and that is what I’m after. The next generation always has to be better than the previous one.”
Meanwhile, AmaZulu will taken on Lamontville Golden Arrows in a KZN derby today at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium at 15h00.
Mthembu, who scored in that crucial 3-1 away CAF Champions League preliminary round second leg win tie against Big Bullets which sees AmaZulu now progressing into the second round of the qualifiers with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline, said it felt great being on the score sheet for the first time this season. The striker also added that he and his teammates are also highly motivated to transfer that form in this match against Abafana Bes’thende.
Usuthu are yet to register their first win in the league this season.
“Derby matches are never easy games to play in, however, the boys are highly motivated to continue building from our previous winning result in our CAF tie,” Mthembu says. “It felt great scoring in that match and one wants to produce more of those, however, it’s always more about the team than an individual. Not only do I want to score but also want to create scoring opportunities for my teammates to do the same. I used to play as a winger during my amateur years in the (ABC Motsepe League) and excelled greatly in that role. I want that to be a part of my game now here in Usuthu, and not just become a striker who holds the ball up front score goals. I want to create, too.”
By Mohau Ramashidja