If you’re a South African football follower, or Premiership enthusiast, you might find it strange when a top player, who is well paid and living the life we dream of, suddenly stops playing professional football. ThisIsFootball.Africa’s Clifton Mabasa spoke to arguably one of the best defensive midfielders in South Africa, Mpho Matsi who tells us his story of why he stopped playing, and what he has been doing in his three years out of the game.
The former University of Pretoria captain shares his difficult moments in football, how injuries affected him and what is he busy with presently.
Clifton Mabasa : Mpho, thanks, it’s been a while man, what’s up?
Mpho Matsi: I’m home, I’m busy working at my family’s bakery company as a manager, it’s a family business. My family has a bakery, I’m managing one of the three stores. I must be here 24/7.
CM: Nothing in terms of football now?
MM: I stopped everything in relation to football now, I stopped 100%.
CM: But I remember in our last conversation, you told me about training with AmaTuks?
MM: Yes, I was a free agent at the time, so I started training with University of Pretoria, but it was a chance I was given so that I could keep myself fit. I did rehab with them while I was injured. There were no contracts talks, we didn’t speak about it, I was just asked to go train with the team, so I was keeping fit.
I even wanted to give up, I felt like I would never come back because of the injury I got while I was at Cape Town City. So Tuks invited me, Tuks have a good facility so it gave me hope that I would make a recovery and come back. But football wise, I was not learning anything, when it comes to football, for me, you must enjoy what you do. But I appreciate what Tuks did for me.
CM: What happened at Cape Town City because you were still contracted with them?
MM: I had still had two-years on my contract with City, but they terminated it because I was injured. I became a free agent. I was at Stellenbosch on loan from Cape Town City, and I got injured and I was told I would be out for nine months. So, when the loan ended, City decided to terminate my contract because I was injured, and Stellies couldn’t keep me because I was injured – which was understandable.
CM: How is this affecting you?
MM: It’s not impacting me because after an injury, it’s no longer the same, you don’t perform the same, but the hunger is still there. It’s just frustrating every so often.
But yeah, I’m very content now, I’m content, so I can say it doesn’t alter me at all because I’m able to take a break from being a famous person though. When people know you, there’s nothing you can do, so now I’m content.
CM: But if any team comes and says, come join us, are you going to turn them down?
MM: That’s not a problem. With my experience, I would not mind, especially Kaizer Chiefs, now I feel my experience would help in their defensive midfield position.
Because if you can look, I think Chiefs have only Njabulo Blom as their defensive midfielder. They also have Yusuf Maart, but he’s not that good in the defensive position, I give him 100% in offensive position.
CM: Have you thought of retiring since things are not coming up together?
MM: I never thought of retiring, never, but I’m just looking for a motivation, football is all about motivation. The plan was to retire at least maybe at 36, but you will never know.
My passion has always been to become a coach. So, that’s why I’m managing this place (Bakery Shop), if I can’t manage this place, it means I cannot manage a team.
If nothing comes my way in terms of playing, my plan is to coach and give back some of my knowledge to the young ones. I use this bakery business to learn how to manage.
I haven’t started doing coaching courses because I was still looking to play. Now since I’m not playing, I am learning how to be a manager here, this will help me to see if I will be able to coach soccer players. Soccer players are also people, they have problems too. So, I said to myself, okay let me manage this place then I will see when time goes by.
CM: Sounds good. Changing the subject. Let’s discuss the funniest, but strictest coach you played under.
MM: Lol ha ha, it must be Muhsin Ertugral, that person was the worst, but the best coach. You could feel him, after training you could drive home with tears in your face.
I remember once he told me that ”hey man you make me sick, what are you doing”, this was after I lost the ball while we were at training, I remember I was playing with Khuboni, he was on top of our shoulders that day.
You would not forget Muhsin, he would focus on only you in a certain session, you could cry, but at the same time he’s helping you. So, you don’t forget that kind of person, he was a passionate coach, he wanted everyone to know that we were fighting to win and to get better.
CM: You sound like you enjoyed his company, you’re busy with the bakery and getting a career to live by. How would you advise the young stars of today to prepare for life after football?
MM: Yerrr, that’s tough, that’s tough now because you can’t advise a soccer player. You will never be able to advise them, the only thing you can tell them is to enjoy the moment, but to also look to the future, think about the next few years. The clubs do everything, they organize seminars for players, but it does not help because at the time we don’t listen because we feel like heroes, when you young and injury free and playing regularly.
CM: Mpho, we appreciate your time, we hope to see you in action soon.