A quick google search of Sharpeville can be quite unnerving because of the old archive footage it brings.
If you’ve delved a bit into the history of the township, then you’d have probably seen that grainy black-and-white footage from the infamous Sharpeville massacre. Jaded-looking cops appear to be casually conversing, and suddenly the horror unfolds as bullets are sprayed on peaceful marchers.
In that two minutes of madness on March 21, 1960, 69 people were killed for protesting against the despotic ‘Dompass’, low wages and poor living conditions.
Such is the history of one of the oldest of six townships in the Vaal Triangle, located in between two large industrial cities – Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging – in southern Gauteng.
Just three kilometres from the old police station, now known as the Human Rights monument, Motsamai Motsepe stumbled upon a teenage sprint merchant – Tshepang Moremi.
Motsepe runs the Sharpeville Benfica Sports Development Club and had no business marvelling at a youngster seemingly passionate about track-and-field events.
“I met the boy back in 2012 around the month of April, just after schools had finished their athletics season. He held the 100m record at primary school level, aged 11 about to turn 12,” Motsepe tells FARPost.
Mohapi Mofokeng had been working with the youngster for three years when he smashed the 100m record in the inter-district competition.
Mofokeng was part of the school development system and worked with kids passionate about sport. He says while he would occasionally see Moremi play football during break, his first love was athletics.
“He was eight years old when I first met him, he was very passionate about athletics. Sometimes during his break time, he would play football,” Mofokeng tells FARPost.
Perhaps the turning point was when Motsepe saw the same boy running at his opponents in a soccer field across his school.
“I saw the same boy at a ground where we used to train, it’s called the James Ground. The reason it was named the James Ground is because an old man who had a shop that sold refreshments near the ground was shot dead. His name was James,” explains Motsepe.
The Sharpeville Benfica founder was directed to Mofokeng who had been training Moremi the athlete. Luckily, the month was April of 2012 and athletics was over and done for the year.
So, it meant Motsepe could run the rule over the youngster on the football field. A six versus six duel was set up. The young boy took his stride onto the football pitch, gliding past opponents as though they were standing.
Motsepe, pictured below, however, admits the teenager was far from the finished article. He was as good as a rough diamond.
“We played six versus six, and he was so fast. He would outrun everyone. In addition to his pace, he could use his left foot so well, but I was told the boy was only interested in athletics,” he remembers, adding that it was a no-brainer that the boy was an attacking winger.
Fortunately, that six versus six encounter showed the school they had a football gem on their hands. The timing was even perfect as they were preparing for the Danone Under 12 tournament.
“The boy was so good, his peers actually called him ‘Buda’ because he was extremely good,” says Mofokeng.
The youngster’s performances had secured him a place at Sharpeville Benfica. Not that he cared about the place. In fact, eight months later he vanished. He was back on the athletics track.
To gain his newly-found wing starlet, Motsepe knew the easiest way was to engage his mother. Once armed with her permission, there was no disappearing as he could simply go and look for him at home.
After obtaining the mom’s permission, the headmaster, who was aware of the boy’s athletics talent, was his other hurdle. He insisted the boy had to pursue athletics.
“We ended up sitting down with the headmaster and agreeing that I would let him do athletics early in the year and then football when athletics was over. Luckily, his mother, who is a single mother, gave me the responsibility to guide the boy after I explained how talented he was,” says Motsepe.
After mentoring the boy for four years, he felt the boy had outgrown his Sharpeville side. An academy set up, he thought, would work out well for him.
“When he was 16 I wasted no time, I spoke to his mom and made it clear that I wanted him to go to an academy where he would further develop. I told her I saw a future star in him. I specifically wanted him to go to Gauteng,” adds Motsepe.
Together with the boy and his mom, they took a taxi to Centurion where the youngster would do trials at Rosina Sedibane Modiba Sport School.
At the Laudium academy, he would also continue with his education. In no time, he was admitted into the academy.
When he was done with his matric, it was time to return home. Motsepe then made an arrangement with the Remember Elite Sport Academy (RESA) where he hoped he would play competitively in the SAB League.
“I sent him to RESA because my last age group at Sharpeville Benfica was Under 17 and he needed to play more competitive football. He did wonders playing in the SAB League,” he says.
Motsepe happened to attend a coaching course where he met former Golden Arrows and Kaizer Chiefs striker Mabhuti Khenyeza. He raved on about the boy until Khenyeza, who was with AmaZulu at the time, invited him. The next thing he was on a bus to Durban.
“It literally took two days of assessment for them to be impressed. They had seen potential and they were signing him for the MDC team,” he recalls.
In his standout MDC performance, Moremi, nicknamed ‘Continental’, helped Usuthu bounce back from behind to beat Golden Arrows reserves 4-2 on December 5, 2020. He weighed in with one goal.
Four games into his Usuthu stint, then GladAfrica Championship side Bizana Pondo Chiefs came knocking after spotting him during a friendly match.
After a season’s loan in the second tier, Usuthu have recalled him and recently unveiled him with several other new signings. He came off the bench in the 2-1 defeat to Cape Town City in the MTN8 quarterfinals at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Sunday.
“He just played four games in the MDC and never finished the season. Pondo Chiefs signed him on loan after a friendly match with AmaZulu. I’m happy he’s back at AmaZulu,” says a proud Motsepe.
The 20-year-old took the tie against Golden Arrows by the scruff of the neck, scoring and providing an assist as Usuthu won 3-2 in the Premier Cup.
After that man-of-the-match performance, he thanked his family and Motsepe for standing with him throughout his pursuit of football.
“I’m grateful to Mr Motsepe because he has supported me so much. I wouldn’t have made it this far without him and my family,” he tells FARPost.
He, however, knows he has his work cut out for him. But he considers himself privileged to be under the tutelage of South Africa’s only Uefa Champions League winner, Benni McCarthy, who lifted it with Portugal’s FC Porto in 2004.
“I’m lucky to work with a man like Benni McCarthy, there’s a lot one can learn from him and I’m learning,” he tells FARPost.
When releasing Siphiwe Tshabalala, McCarthy singled out Moremi as one of the young players he wanted to give playing opportunities. On Sunday, the Bafana Bafana record goal scorer introduced the Sharpeville-born winger as a second half substitute against City.
“He’s always helpful and he’s been phenomenal, but I think having a Shabba there [in the team] then you lose the potential of a Tshepang [Moremi] and a [Lindani] Shange. We’ve got a lot of youngsters coming through and if you hold onto the senior players the young players will not get their time,” McCarthy said.
Mofokeng, just like Motsepe, is convinced the talented winger is set for big things in football if he keeps his feet firmly on the ground.
By Mthokozisi Dube