Why Ethan Brooks didn’t join Sundowns

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Sunday’s clash between Mamelodi Sundowns and TS Galaxy may actually be nostalgic for Ethan Brooks!

The two sides clash at Loftus Versfeld Stadium at 17h00 and that tie may just bring back a flood of memories for the 20-year-old.

When his career was fast taking off, he came very close to signing for the defending league champions. This was shortly after missing out on another opportunity to sign for SuperSport United after a successful trial.

Ricardo Katza, then a development coach at Matsatsantsa, remembers how buzzing the 16-year-old was in the middle of the park.

“I remember him. He was that good already at the time,” Katza, who is now director of football at Grey College in Bloemfontein, tells FARPost.

For a boy whose Sunday school teacher had predicted that he would play football professionally when he was only three, there was always an inkling he would make it to the big stage.

His grandmother, Yvonne Brooks, remembers waiting to pick him up after Sunday school at Rhema Bible Church 17 years ago when a teacher held his three-year-old hand asking who his parents were.

The Sunday school teacher, later identified as Kotie, had a message to relay. So convinced was she that she couldn’t keep it to herself.

When Yvonne, who recently turned 74, stepped forward to confirm that she was the granny of the boy, the teacher made a bold prediction: ‘This boy will be a professional athlete one day’, she said.

Ethan’s dad, Fabian Brooks, admits those words meant they had to pay particular attention to their son’s interest in the game.

When Sundowns and SuperSport came knocking for their teenager in 2017, it evoked memories of that prediction.

And what better way to start his professional career at a Sundowns side that was already a dominant force in local football under the masterful tutelage of Pitso Mosimane.

While Fabian admits it was quite a tempting offer before even opening the envelope that contained the contract, he says after giving it some thought they decided otherwise.

He vividly remembers Trott Moloto, a senior Downs official, walking into their Mondeor home clutching a khaki A4 envelope in his hand. Interestingly, they never touched nor opened that envelope. Whatever the contents of that contract were, it could wait until the boy was done with his Matric.

“Up until this day, I don’t know what was in that contract. I’ll never forget what Mr Trott Moloto said. He said, ‘you know what, this is the first time I walk into somebody’s house and the first question is not ‘what’s in that envelope?’

“For us it wasn’t about the money, the name or the fame. We knew that it was important for Ethan to get an education. Even until now we stress the importance of education because unfortunately football is a short career,” he tells FARPost.

Downs had spotted the boy while playing for amateur side Panorama FC. His dad’s insistence on him completing his Matric first meant he would continue with his development at Panorama under Michael Michael, who is now based in Greece.

As fate would have it, Dan Malesela, then in charge of Galaxy who shared a training ground with Panorama in Radiokop, caught a glimpse of the boy in action. He was lording it over the midfield of that Under 19 team.

“It’s just the thinking, the football intelligence, I could see something that was not in a lot of youngsters. Sometimes you just see pure talent, but with no football brain. It’s very rare [at that age] to see someone who is very calculative. I like people who think on the ball. That’s what hit it for me,” Malesela tells FARPost, stressing that he didn’t have to look twice.

Luckily, Galaxy who were then playing in the GladAfrica Championship, were not in a rush to sign the then teenager. All they wanted was his and his parents’ word that once he was done with school, he would join them.

“At the end of 2019, Coach Dan knew when the exams finished. It took about three months to March 2020 and we officially put pen to paper. It wasn’t until the bio-bubble that Ethan actually started playing for TS Galaxy,” recalls his dad.

The pint-sized midfielder made his debut in a GladAfrica Championship encounter against Cape Umoya on August 19, 2020. The last 12 months have been absolutely phenomenal for him.

Brooks was part of the triumphant 2021 Cosafa Cup campaign in Gqeberha. The Bafana Bafana midfielder is on record as saying he “would choose Mamelodi Sundowns” if the big-three were interested.

He admires the likes of Lebogang Maboe, Sphelele Mkhulise and Rushine De Reuck because of how calm and comfortable they are on the ball “with a high work-rate which suits my style of play.”

However on Sunday, he will be eager to help Owen da Gama’s charges get one over Sundowns. Galaxy are looking for their first win of the season after drawing twice and losing once in the opening three games.

On the other hand, Sundowns will look to maintain their unbeaten run after winning their first two fixtures and drawing once.

Downs are at the top of the league table while Galaxy are in 14th place.

RELATED STORY: How Sundowns accidentally spotted Gaston Sirino

By Mthokozisi Dube