‘Slim Kat’: Jou Lekker Ding 

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Moeneeb Josephs’s illustrious footballing journey is truly testament that ‘the apple does not fall far from the tree’.

Josephs, who turns 40 today, was plucked from a long line of goalkeepers in his family. His grandfather, the man credited for identifying his potential in between the sticks as early as age 7, was a goalkeeper for the now defunct Baltic Rangers. His uncles also guarded the goal posts.

And now, ABC Motsepe League outfit Ikapa Sporting chairman Shaun Pietersen, a former goalie himself, reveals that Josephs’s son, Niyaaz, is also one for the future. Yes, the 21-year-old, making a penalty save in the video below, is a shot stopper too.

“It’s a family of goalkeepers. Niyaaz played for us for two seasons as a goalkeeper. The boy is an awesome prospect. I think he’d go far if he takes his career seriously,” Pietersen tells FARPost.

Pietersen, who played for Battswood in yesteryear’s Federation Professional League (FPL), is, however, quick to admit Niyaaz’s superstar dad has set the bar too high.

Understandably so, the man is in a class of his own. The effervescent Josephs has collected every trophy on offer in South African football. His list of individual accolades is remarkable.

He has three League titles – two of them won with Orlando Pirates and the other with Wits – to boast of. He counts the 2002/03 PSL Players’ Player of the Season award and PSL Goalkeeper of the Season accolades for the 2009/10 and 2014/15 campaigns, and the Telkom Knockout Goalkeeper of the Tournament in 2011, among his individual awards.

Without a doubt, he is one of the finest things to come out of the drug-ravaged, crime-ridden Cape Flats. “He’s a top-class goalkeeper, one of our country’s finest. A true example of a professional,” Pietersen adds.

The AmaZulu goalkeeper, who now doubles up as assistant coach, vividly remembers the beautiful day his grandfather took him to Mnandi Beach, a lovely Blue Flag beach set on the warm False Bay coastline, popular with the residents of Strandfontein and Khayelitsha.

They were not going to swim…

Gramps probably wanted see if his lil’ boy had the same abilities as him and his uncles in between the sticks. Little did he know that decades later his grandson would guard the goals for his country in the FIFA 2010 World Cup against heavyweights France, a match that would end in a 2-1 win for Bafana Bafana.

“There were goalposts and he told me to get in the poles. He started taking a couple of shots and saw something in me. On our way home, he said this is what I was meant to do,” Josephs told Plainsman, a community newspaper in Mitchell’s Plain four years ago.

Thereafter, his journey started at Westridge FC. His extraordinary football voyage would then gather momentum with a triumphant debut on September 7, 1997 for Cape Town Spurs against African Wanderers. It would then take him to topflight clubs – Ajax Cape Town, Bidvest Wits, the Buccaneers and his current club AmaZulu, earning him a startling 483 PSL appearances, a record by a goalkeeper.

His former Bucs teammate, Teko Modise, knows just what has set him apart from the rest. ‘The General’, as Modise was affectionately known, singles out Slim Kat’s hyper-competitive nature as that little secret that has thrust him to great heights.

Josephs, he says, isn’t afraid to demand the best from teammates. Unsurprisingly, Modise says he benefitted from Josephs’ winning mentality. In fact, he says his second successive Footballer of the Year award in 2008/09 was largely because of the rapport he built with Josephs.

“I had so much joy playing with Moeneeb,” he says. “I remember the second time when I won the Footballer of the Year, I had a better understanding with Moeneeb.”

Modise was playing on the left side of the Bucs’ midfield and Josephs, who comfortably uses both feet, knew exactly where to put the ball to set up counter attacks. That season, Pirates came close to winning the title in the final game but were tied with SuperSport at the top of the points table after collecting 55 points each.

SuperSport had a greater goal difference with 23 goals over Bucs’ 17 goals. “He would tell me what he would do with counter attacks, where exactly he would put the ball. We had that kind of connection and it became easier for me,” says Modise, who hung up his boots at the end of last season.

Besides his exceptional ball distribution, Modise says Josephs was a “breath of fresh air” in the Sea Robbers’ dressing room. “He is such a positive character,” he says, adding that what you see on the pitch is exactly what he is off the field. “He is just a bubbly guy.”

His former Wits coach Gavin Hunt says it’s no surprise the man he first watched at 16 has come this far. “He’s been exceptional, fantastic, he’s been a great servant of the game,” says Hunt.

He adds it’s a pity he could not make it to Europe. The closest he came to a move was when he trained with Dutch side Ajax Amsterdam in 2003 but returned home after the unsuccessful trial.

“He has the right personality for the game. He has a great determination to want to win,” says Hunt. Like Modise, Hunt believes the eccentric goalie is a typical goalkeeper character – “real, jovial, livewire, up and down.”

Interestingly, all of his teammates from his first season in the PSL have long retired. In his first season, he played with David Modise, Epangala Lokose, Michael Jacobs, Ian Gorowa, Craig Rosslee and Shaun Bartlett.

For Bartlett, Josephs is not just a good goalkeeper, but he is one that wins you games.

“Moeneeb Josephs for me has been the most consistent the past decade.”

Perhaps that is why his former AmaZulu teammate Ovidy Karuru believes goalkeeping is a calling for the former Bafana Bafana keeper. “It seems to be a calling for him, the man enjoys what he does. He’s energetic and ever happy. I don’t remember seeing him angry,” says the Zimbabwe international.

No wonder, Josephs has truly been a whimsical servant of the game.

Happy Birthday, ‘Slim Kat’.

RELATED STORY: 40 facts about Moeneeb Josephs

BY Mthokozisi Dube

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