Thabo Maoko from Mamelodi says soccer has been a good distraction, keeping him away from substance abuse if he was not busy with his school work.
The 19-year-old attended Ribane Laka High, a no-fee school in the township, northeast of Pretoria. He was among hundreds who celebrated their matric results on Wednesday morning.
Dressed in grey shorts, a blue shirt and a bucket hat, Maoko said he was pleased and relieved when he received his results.
He achieved a bachelors pass, as well as distinctions in Physical Sciences and Life Orientation.
The teen said he had also wanted a distinction in Mathematics but did not reach the 80% mark.
Growing up in the township and being dependent on his grandmother, Maoko said the journey had not been easy.
Both his parents died in 2009 when he was only nine years old, and his grandmother had to step in and help raise him.
He said he was happy that he was able to finish school and matriculate with good marks, despite the challenges at home. The teen expressed gratitude to his grandmother, who lives with him and his siblings and cousins.
"Things are very difficult at home because my grandmother is the only one who supports us financially, but through all that, she ensures that as her grandchildren, we do not suffer. She has been supportive," the proud teen said.
He expressed gratitude to his grandmother, saying she was also very supportive throughout his matric year, giving him space and time to study. One of the many challenges he faced was time management."Studying every day was a challenge for me last year. I was not used to doing so, but I had to push myself. "
Maoko added that throughout the year, he tried his best to avoid peer pressure and kept away from drugs by being on the field playing soccer if he was not studying.
He is passionate about the sport and has dreams of playing professional football someday. But first, he hopes to finish his studies before going into professional football.
"I think playing soccer during my spare time has helped me stay away from many other things, such as substance abuse, and I am happy," he said.
Now that his matric results are out, Maoko awaits a reply from the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, previously known as Medunsa, where he has applied to study medicine.
Maoko also aspires to join the South African Military Health Service (SAMHS) if his application at Sefako Makgatho is unsuccessful.