The Journey: Thibang Phete

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FARPost’s international office has taken initiative to bring South Africa closer to the journey of South African footballers plying their trade overseas from where it all started and how did they end up where they are now.

We get a glimpse into the stories of Mzansi’s exports.

Portugal-based defender Thibang Phete took time out to engage us about his long but trimphant journey so far as he took thd platform to explain how it began and how he ended up where he is l.

“I would say my journey began like most young footballers in South Africa started, maybe the only difference would be conditions. My journey started in my home town Kimberley in the small Province of the Northern Cape.

“Kimberley is a very small city with limited living conditions, lots of crime and unemployment. The conditions made it very hard for me who was thinking of playing in the PSL or even being a professional player one day. The dream was very far ahead we played for the love of the game only,” he explained.

“I started playing football at the age of 11 in the dusty streets of my town and that’s where I got the nickname ‘Cafu’, after the Brazilian. After being consistent as a youngster in my area I soon joined a team called Real Madrid At the age of 13 playing in their U15 and at the time they had a professional team playing in the Vodacom League (now called the ABC Motsepe League) which was the best in the whole city of Kimberley so it was the main supported team and ended up playing there for 3 years.”

Asked about his inspiration that attracted him to the game, the 25-year-old replied, ” I never really had a specific inspiration as a youngster, but my passion was just watching football and loved to see what the top players who played in the Premier Soccer League and overseas leagues do so as I grew up I learned more about football tactics and positions. As I got older I grew inspiration from great Zinedine Zidane so the older me drew a lot of inspiration from him.”

‘Cafu’ is a product of the renowned Stars of Africa academy so we wondered how a boy from the dusty streers of Kimberley ended up at one of the country’s leading academies in Johannesburg and the lanky defender explained.

“I was at the Stars of Africa academy from the age of 14 and spent 5years under the guidance of Coach Farouk Khan. I was consistent in my performances at the academy playing very well and learning as much as I could. I even converted into the central midfield role there and played very well there for years with the best coaching. At the age of 19 coach Farouk decided I was ready to improve and showcase my talent on a professional set-up that’s when he loaned me out to second division team Milano United.

“I played there for 6 months and after that went back to the academy. The coach explained that there were a few teams in the PSL interested me, but he sat me down and spoke to me about his vision for me. That was when he sent me to Portugal to a third division team and from there as they say the rest is history.”

Every footballer has a dream and the former Vitoria Guimaraes man opened up.

“My dream is to play for Chelsea in the English Premier League I would really love to play for them one day so who knows it might happen.”

Phete recently joined SAD Belenenses from Famalicao in the Portuguese Premier league and before that he turned out for Bongani Zungu’s former club Vitoria Guimaraes who are regular participants of the UEFA Europa League but he would like to forget his time there after he had a career threatening knee injury that took him a few steps back in his career as he was already a regular in the 2015/16 season.

After the injury he would find it hard to make it back to the first team for two seasons playing now as a centre back for the B team before moving to Famalicao in August of 2019 which was his return to senior football in the elite division.

The defender is a regular at Belenenses and this year alone has won a couple of Man of the Match awards for his displays at the centre of the defence.

By Prince Sobayeni

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