Carelse – What it’s like playing for Sundowns

This Is Football.Africa’s Clifton Mabasa got the opportunity to speak to the former Mamelodi Sundowns, SuperSport United and Ajax Cape Town midfielder, Brent Carelse. The Capetonian tells us about his football journey, and in particular what its like playing for Sundowns.

Clifton Mabasa: Brent, thanks for your time, let’s get straight to it. How have you been lately, and what are you doing now?

Brent Carelse: All good man, I’m still involved in football, but I’m more involved in football on the local front, because I’m the provincial coordinator for South African Football Players Union in the Western Cape, so I sort of always keep in touch with the current pros at the clubs in the Western Cape.

CM: Most ex pros turn to be coaches, are you also on that route?

BC: Yes, look, I do want to become a coach, I’m not going to lie. I’m definitely doing it, I’m studying, doing the courses, but currently I’m focusing on grassroots, that’s where I’m at now. I am coaching, I coach at schools, I’m involved also with players to identify and scout players.

So, I’ll focus on the youngsters, those are the players that we are going to coach, so we need to help them especially with the basics. I think that’s where I need to focus, that’s where I am presently. But if anything comes up, I’m available to coach, I’m a competitor, and it’s my passion to be the best.

24 May 2008 Sundowns’ Brent Carelse celebrates with the trophy. Nedbank Cup Final, Mamelodi Sundowns (Yellow) 1 Mpumalanga Black Aces (White) 0 (FT) Johannesburg Stadium, Johannesburg, Gauteng, RSA ©Pic: Chris Ricco/backpagepix

CM: Interesting, how did football change or contribute to your life?

BC: Look, football changed my life. It’s obviously a story that most footballers will relate to. I always dreamed of becoming a professional footballer, but for me, I think it was part of my upbringing, my learnings and that, so I was fortunate enough to be one of the boys at the School of Excellence in 1994 when it opened up.

I was chosen to join the school and obviously developed my football skills at the school.  Some of the things that happened there already, like meeting Madiba (Nelson Mandela), playing at a packed capacity stadium during the Madiba Inauguration, a crowd of 50 to 60,000 in the stadium, and I was only I think 11 at the time, so it was a remarkable experience already from then.

CM: And we saw the School of Excellence graduate become a pro…

BC: So obviously then going on and becoming a professional footballer was also one of my dreams. I was fortunate enough to get my first team debut at Hellenic FC after I left the school in 1998. I even scored on my debut against Mamelodi Sundowns, it’s just surreal. It was like the things sometimes you  only dream about and yet it happened for me. I had great two seasons at Hellenic.

I played with some great players like Grant Young, Manny Rodriguez, George Moyo, Trevor Mosathebe and Solly Phetla. These guys make you understand what you’re there for, and  they also guided me a little. Those old days helped me realise what I could do with my career and the opportunity I’ve been given.

CM: Who encouraged you to choose this career?

BC: I think the person who helped me a lot to discover my career I would say were my parents. My parents were very active in sport. My mom was a tennis champion, she also played netball for the school, and she used to coach.

Also, my dad was a former professional footballer in the Federation League, so he was a pro. He went to England at a young age and acquired his badges, and there was always a ball in the house, and the ball was always with me, so that encouraged me to be active, to love the sport.

My father would  also say to me, “Look, if you want to get better, this is what you need to do”. So I used to practice to the point where they used to get upset with me, because all I did was play the ball against the wall all day, every day. And I played in the street. I played at school. I played everywhere.

There’s a lot of people I think that influenced me, even as a footballer, as a young footballer. Sometimes you make mistakes and you need somebody to put you on the right path again. There’s a lot of people that I need to thank, Cavin Johnson, John Comitis, my wife, a lot of people that helped me to keep me focused and performing at the highest level. I was just fortunate enough to have those people around me at the right time, so thank you to all of them.

CM: Brent, some young football lovers like me started seeing you at Ajax, I hope this is where you realised that, yeah now I made it?

22 April 2008 Sundown’s Brent Carelse battles for the ball with Supersport’s Bongani Khumalo Supersport United vs Mamelodi Sundowns , ABSA Premiership, Super Stadium, Attredgeville, South Africa ©Sydney Mahlangu/Backpagepix

BC: Lol, Ajax then bought me from Hellenic, and I had a tremendous career there. A lot of the coaches came in and always tried to improve us and always gave us young players an opportunity. At the time, I was still young, so I grew with the team, and because of the number of years I spent there, I ended up being one of the senior boys.

But eventually, I had to move on. I think I did tremendous work in terms of helping the young players. Especially once they came through the junior teams and into the first team. I was happy at Ajax,  but I thought it was  time to move on and to compete at a bigger club and to try to achieve some bigger goals. So I joined Mamelodi Sundowns with my former coach Gordon Igesund. Even though I wasn’t there for very long, I think I did a lot for the club.

We were a small squad at the time, and I was there, so we were playing Champions League, competing for the Cups and so on. I was happy with the performance I was putting in every time I was provided an opportunity, and we won a lot …..that was a tremendous time as well.

CM: You had good times! So who was the craziest coach during those times and why?

BC: Lol ha ha, your questions are tough ha ha! No man look, I think the craziest coach and why I wouldn’t say he was crazy, just for me, he was somebody who would do anything, anything to sort of win and take advantage, that was Gordon Igesund. Anything that could win us a game, we were somewhat allowed to do, and he would try to do as well. So, he would do anything for us to win matches. And he made us actually very streetwise players.

He always kept us on our toes, always things like that, he was always ready to pounce. It was so crazy, he was very demanding from his players and he knew how to get the best out of us. That was his crazy side. He would do some things to make sure that you perform for him, it was just crazy, but amazing at the same time.

CM: And the most skilful player you have played with?

BC: There’s been a lot of them. South Africa has an abundance of skill. I think it’s one of our best qualities. We have lots of skilful players and that’s obviously because we are very creative, we have very creative minds. We can do a lot with the ball.

But for me, Lawrence Masegela, Black Sunday’s nephew. He was with me at the school. He played for Wits a bit, but I think the most skilful player that I played with, was this man Joel Seroba. I was with him at Hellenic, this guy was super skilful.

He could do it anytime, you would wake him up from the bed  and he could do that skill. He was a very skilful player.

30 March 2008, Sundowns Brent Carelse Kaizer Chiefs (Yellow) 1 Mamelodi Sundowns (White) 1 (Sundowns win 5-4 on pen), Nedbank Cup, Last 16, ABSA Stadium, Durban, South Africa, ©Sydney Mahlangu/Backpagepix

CM: At Sundowns who were the players who didn’t like training but loved playing?

BC: Lol ha ha, unfortunately, at Sundowns it doesn’t work that way. You have to train very hard to get to be able to play. But yes, we had a small squad at the time, like I said. And the likes of Patrick Apataki, Christian Moudouthe-Bille, these are players who didn’t enjoy training, especially pre-season time.

But everybody loves to play. We all want to play in matches, but those are the ones who always stood out, not necessarily didn’t enjoy training, but they would prefer to play a match.

CM: You went to SuperSport United from Sundowns…

BC: Then I got bought by SuperSport, they picked me to come over there and improve on what they had achieved. They wanted to to win the league, and that’s how it worked out. I went over there, won some more league titles, played again on the continent quite a few times.

I tried to just show how good I was and to compete at the highest level again. Also to just give thanks for the opportunity, or try to say thank you for the opportunity I’ve been given by the club, the coaches, and my teammates. SuperSport was obviously a success, two league titles and we dominated the local stage.

CM: And then you went back to your home, Ajax Cape Town.

BC: I came back to Cape Town and back to Ajax, and again I would have loved to have won the league. Ajax were a young team – they were just out of the top eight when I came in January, but they were already doing the business, playing some good football.

It was a good move for me, the coach was bringing in some experience, and it worked out well. We almost won the league. I think a few of our players even got big overseas contracts, for instance, Thulani Serero got a move to Ajax Amsterdam. He was grateful for the club, for us, his teammates, because we wanted that for him and ourselves.

 I obviously played for a long time at Ajax, but wherever I played, I enjoyed myself to be honest. But where I had the most success probably is at Sundowns. Playing at Sundowns you had to be at a very high level all the time – so yeah, I enjoyed that sort of environment where I’m pushed to try to be the best that I can be at all times. But at all my clubs, I enjoyed myself.

So overall, football has been wonderful to me. I’ve met a lot of great, great people, the likes of Madiba (Nelson Mandela) and I have been to great places. I have been to many places in Africa, some places in Europe. And that’s just what football can do, football can take you places, make you meet incredible people and just enjoy life.

CM: Brent thanks for chatting with us, let’s talk again soon.

22 April 2008 Back, Mbulelo Mabizela, Jorge Acuna, Brian Baloyi, Michael Manzini, Esrom Nyandoro Front, Lerato Chabangu, Luvhengo Mungomeni, Brent Carelse, Shere Lekgothoane and Josta Dladla Supersport United (Blue) 1 vs Mamelodi Sundowns (Yellow) 3 , ABSA Premiership, Super Stadium, Attredgeville, South Africa ©Sydney Mahlangu/Backpagepix