The more Percy Tau shines, the more the spotlight is shifted to focus on his media-shy manager, Mmatsatsi Sefalafala, writes Daniel Mothowagae.
Percy Tau’s neatly framed Mamelodi Sundowns jersey bearing the inscription “thanks for everything you did for me” hangs in the offices of Sefalafala Attorneys in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.
The souvenir was delivered by Tau as a birthday gift for Mmatsatsi Sefalafala, the unassuming woman who brokered his R50 million record-smashing transfer from Sundowns to Brighton Hove & Albion in England last year.
The legal practitioner from Lebowakgomo in Limpopo admits that the continuous rise of her client’s star has made it difficult for her to keep a low profile.
“Just by the fact that you have this brand that attracts a lot of attention, people get to you somehow,” conceded the soft-spoken law firm director.
“I always had a picture in mind that one day something big would happen, and when that moment came, it would come unexpectedly. The ability to keep things private also helped. We work as a team with Percy. He’s also a private, media-shy person.
“When you have the full support of your client and when he also has confidence in your ability, it makes things much easier. He’s able to stand firm and say: ‘I have a representative and if you want to speak with me, go to her.’”
Sefalafala admits that it was overwhelming to deal with the biggest transaction so far handled by her player management stable, Fala Sport, which she established in 2009.
Reflecting on Tau’s historic move, Sefalafala recalled praying on how to draw inspiration “to have the strength to run with it without too many people involved”.
“It has been very overwhelming. Remember, all eyes were on Percy to move abroad and, had nothing happened, it would have come back to me with comments such as: ‘Oh, I told you she’s a woman and has no capacity.’
“The spirit of resilience and perseverance I got from my father just kicked in when some people were saying: ‘We want to help you, there is interest from this corner and that corner.’ I was able to compose myself and not take each and every call, otherwise I would have lost my mind.”
Because he does not meet England’s work permit requirements, Brighton continues to loan out Tau. He is now on another season-long loan spell at Belgium’s First Division A side Club Brugge, after a season at Royal Union Saint-Gilloise in the Belgian second division.
On the flip side, Tau’s move abroad has unlocked the world for the Wits University Bachelor of Laws graduate.
“The amount of exposure and the networks that I’ve managed to establish in a short space of time is so amazing. I got to realise that you don’t necessarily have to do it through any collaboration. I am one person who really believes in myself,” said Sefalafala, who is in her thirties.
She and Tau have come a long way, as have his two virtually unknown player scouts Sonnyboy Zitha and David Mohlala.
It is amazing how life panned out for Sefalafala, an avid athletics fan who even represented her province as a sprinter in her younger years. She is the second-born in a family of three girls and boy.
She learnt the trade by interacting with renowned legal eagles Zola Majavu and Themba Langa, both of whom have previously been involved in PSL matters.
“I was not a football fan, to be quite honest. It all changed when I finished my degree in 2004,” Sefalafala said.
“I joined a law firm based in Randburg in 2005. My principal was Themba Langa. They were specialising in commercial sport law and corporate law.
“On the sport law side, they were focusing mainly on football-related matters, so I got exposed to the football world from that angle. We used to represent clubs such as Kaizer Chiefs, Black Leopards and Jomo Cosmos, and even Dangerous Darkies FC.”
It was during her two-year spell while completing her law articles that she discovered that most professional football players did not have legal representatives.
“They used to get a raw deal and I saw that this was not good. Someone needed to step in, not only from a legal point of view – there’s also the commercial aspect.
“That’s when I started developing an interest and then I did research. I started going to games, liking the game and understanding them a bit.
“There was no point – my principal did not involve me in any matter he was dealing with. Sometimes he’d throw me into the deep end. By the time I finished my articles, I already had ideas of how to remain in the space.”
Sefalafala said it was not easy to break into a market that was male-dominated.
“And when you are a woman, it’s even worse because you have to constantly prove yourself to your male counterparts.”
Sefalafala is glad that Tau’s exploits in the Belgian lower division earned him his stripes overseas. In the meantime, Brighton wait for their star to meet the requirements for a work permit to play in England.