Gift Mpho Sekgobela’s biggest memory of Skopa [Kopano Sekgobela] is certainly not one of his Polokwane City games.
It’s a game pitting his village Tjibeng and Skopa’s Ga-Phasha in rural Limpopo back in 2005. That was way before Skopa went Pro. He was just a 15-year-old boy playing for his dad’s team, Sekgobela Santos.
There was a fierce rivalry between those two neighbouring villages. Therefore, there was everything to play for.
“I only discovered we shared the same surname after the game,” Gift tells FARPost. “But he had made a fool out of me, the boy was just unmarkable.”
On the day, versatile Skopa played as a traditional number six, shielding the backline from all manner of attacks.
Not only did he break down opposition attacks, but he displayed an array of skills with so much arrogance, Gift, pictured below, says.
On the other hand, Gift, nicknamed Mhlongo after the gritty former Orlando Pirates star Benson, played as a centre back. He was thought to be tough-as-teak.
So they thought he’d be the man to deal with Skopa, who spearheaded opposition attacks from his deep lying position.
“So I moved to midfield with the sole aim being to deal with me. But the boy dealt with me instead, ha, ha, ha. I can’t even remember the number of shibobos he gave me on the day. He had this arrogance and fearlessness about him.”
It was embarrassing especially with fans from both villages watching and girls from Tjibeng who thought their Gift was the real deal.
Skopa bursts into laughter when FARPost asks him about that game. He recalls how Gift ended up being substituted.
“I had to fake cramps so that they took me out,” confesses Gift, who was five years Skopa’s senior.
After stitching the midfield together and helping his village win, Gift walked up to him after the game and asked him a weird question.
“He asked me where I train,” Skopa recalls.
Gift reveals it didn’t make sense that such a talented boy was training in the neighbouring village.
From that day, Gift says they would sometimes deliberately not invite the boys from Ga-Phasha because they were too good.
And so, Gift followed Skopa’s career until the 2012 accident that ended his playing career at just 23.
He has continued to follow his coaching of boys in his village and draws important lessons from his journey.
“The lesson for me is: whatever is happening around you, please just keep going. He started his own team. I’m so proud of him, he’s doing a marvelous job,” Gift says.
But that day in 2005 will forever remain etched on his mind.
By Mthokozisi Dube