By Chris Totobela
Makhanda’s up-and-coming football star, Luyolo “Pepesi” Matiwane, left for Gauteng at the beginning of the month where he rubbed shoulders with the best that this country has to offer at the national under-17 championships games.
Matiwane was part of the Eastern Cape under-17 side and played in all the games at the national championships. Despite starting on the wrong foot, as they lost their first two encounters to Gauteng and Western Cape 3-0 and 1-2 respectively, the team bounced back in their final group stages game, edging out Limpopo by 2-1, and progressing to the next round.
In the quarter-finals, they defeated Mpumalanga by two unanswered goals to book a date with North West in the semi-finals. In this game, Matiwane was pushed further up the field and played as a winger instead of in his regular left-back position. He excelled and even scored a winner in their 2-1 triumph over North West. In the final game, Eastern Cape threw away a one-goal lead that they got from a penalty spot to lose 1-3 to national champions, Gauteng.
The Khutliso Daniels secondary School scholar told Grocott’s Mail that he enjoyed every minute of his tour to Gauteng. “It was a good experience for me and I learned a lot of things. The standard was very high compared to what I’m used to here at home. I would like to thank everyone that played a part in moulding me to be the player I am today. Special thanks go to my school team coach, Mandilakhe Klaas, who kept me on my toes all the time and always told me to be patient and wait for my opportunity”.
Matiwane also expressed his desire to play for the Phefeni glamour boys, Kaizer Chiefs, and to represent his country one day. Klaas congratulated Matiwane on his achievement, saying ” This boy is a hard worker and reminds me of the late Mthetheleli Mize who went on to play for Kaizer chiefs. They share the same qualities”. Klaas also made a plea to schools and local clubs to take the development of football very seriously.
“Here in Makhanda we are blessed with talented players but the problem is that development is not taken seriously. There is no juniors league and the LFA only focusses on the seniors. Our teams are only playing for promotion to the SAB regional league and the LFA is always rushing to meet the due date to submit the names of the winners. We experience the same thing every season and that is why the juniors are neglected. The education department needs to hire somebody to take care of sports in each and every school, as we cannot expect teachers to work from 8am to 2pm and still go to the field after that and train the kids,” Klaas added.
Talent like Matiwane needs to be monitored and nurtured properly so that it doesn’t get lost along the way. Klaas also mentioned the lack of soccer fields that is also contributing to the death of junior football. Previously, SAB regional league teams have struggled to find under-21 players and that can be attributed to the lack of proper development structures. Local star Matiwane is more likely to be snatched up by one of the four teams that are competing at the regional level.