Empowering players with education

2012-10-27 15:10

Most PSL clubs offer support for players to study while they play but, as Daniel Mothowagae discovered, not many take advantage of the opportunity

At the recent launch of the Orlando Pirates Learning Centre, the club’s chairperson, Irvin Khoza, said: “We understand that the demands of playing make the players overlook their studies.”

He said initiatives such as the Orlando Stadium-based structure was “one way of making education appeal to kids – and to football players”.

Said Khoza: “The facility can also assist them (players who study) to further their distance learning programmes.”

Pirates have come a long way when it comes to empowering their players with education, something the club’s former defender, Bernard “Shoes” Lushozi, can attest to.

“I never demanded a pay rise at Pirates. Instead, I asked the club to pay for my tuition fees and books,” said Lushozi, who is now a school principal.

The former Bucs skipper is just one of a handful of ex-professional players who have acquired post-matric qualifications (see sidebar).

Said Lushozi: “We have no role models from the side of education. Not everyone is capable of being educated. The reality is only a lucky few survive once their playing days are over. I used to take my books to camp because the environment was ideal for one to study.”

Other retired players said there was no excuse for their colleagues not getting an education.

“Whether we like it or not, education plays an important role,” said former Ajax Cape Town and Pirates midfielder Shaun Potgieter, who was forced to retire after a knee injury in 2008 and now works in the SABC’s finance department.

“I felt I was never the same as a player and I asked what would happen to me after football. I excelled in accounting during my school days and that’s why I studied towards a financial diploma.

“I was fortunate to have landed a job at the SABC. I never used a football CV – just my name. I don’t see why there should be excuses from players to not use the big salaries they earn to further their education.”

Pirates winger Daine Klate is doing a financial accounting course and said he was able to strike a balance between his profession and studying.

“I go to class once a week and it’s for three hours. When we are in camp I always use the time between the meetings (team talks) and meals to revise.

“In terms of balancing, it works well for me because it’s all about what the future brings for you.”

It turns out most clubs are doing their bit and some even offer bursaries as is the case with “university clubs” Bidvest Wits and AmaTuks.

George Mogotsi of Wits said: “Education is free for our players. We have Brad Phillips and Katlego Pule currently studying towards their BCom degrees.”

The club’s former captain, Tefu Mashamaite – now with Chiefs – also benefited from the club’s education support programmes.

AmaTuks have Mpho Maruping (third year in sports management) and Pogiso Mahlangu (first year in sports science) among a few who were awarded study bursaries by the Pretoria institution.

“We encourage players to acquire skills that will benefit them once they retire,” said the club’s football manager, Kenneth Neluvhalani.

Chiefs graduates are Lehlohonolo Majoro (radiology), Mashamaite (political science) and Keegan Ritchie.

Amakhosi’s former skipper, Jimmy Tau, has studied with Unisa.

Chiefs football manager Bobby Motaung said Amakhosi were on the verge of unveiling a partnership with a reputable local university.

Ajax Cape Town started a pilot project this year. They have partnered with the Cape Town University of Technology.

Thabiso “Shooz” Mekuto said the club had a dedicated allocation of time for studying in their programme.

“We have a three-hour course on Mondays where players can choose their field of study within sports management. But we can only commit when they commit as far as funding their studies is concerned,” Mekuto said.

Of their senior squad, Mekuto said Nhlanhla Shabalala is currently studying towards a BCom through Unisa
Goalkeeper Sean Roberts graduated in financial planning this year.

Similarly, the older generation produced a handful of players who graduated.

Former Pirates and Chiefs defender Ratha Mokgoatlheng is now a respected figure on a bench of a different kind these days.

The Amakhosi co-founder was appointed a judge of the Transvaal Provincial Division in 2007.

Basic Education Deputy Minister Enver Surty said: “What the Pirates initiative is saying to the football enthusiast is that whether you are a player or a supporter, you can’t neglect education. It is an important element within the development of communities. The challenge is for other clubs to also do something similar and sustainable.”

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