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Nthonyana proves age is but a number



Moorosi Tsiane

After a year’s absence from the premiership, veteran attacking midfielder Kutloisiso Nthonyana (40) is ready to resume his relationship with the topflight league.Kutluisiso Nthonyane (2)

Bascu, as Nthonyana is popularly known in football circles, was playing A Division football with Liphakoe last season after leaving his premier league side, LCS.

Now back at LCS, Nthonyana would be the oldest player in the premier league but the midfielder is not bothered about his age but ensuring Masheshena return to their glory days if given the chance to don his famous Number 11 jersey by the coach.

“It feels good to be back at LCS and I am looking forward to the new season. I had a very good time at Liphakoe; the environment was very conducive and we were more like a family. The coach, Teele Ntšonyana, was once my teammate at Arsenal and the national team although he was much older than me when we used to play together,” said the Qoaling-born midfielder.

Nthonyana told the Sunday Express he has always loved football and no other sport.

“I started playing the game at the age of six when I was at Loreto Primary School. My teacher then, Mrs Hlaname, had a soft spot for me and always encouraged me to play. That is how it all began, but I also believe I inherited this football brain from my father who used to play the game for  mine-teams in South Africa where he was employed.”

While playing for lower-league team Dlamini United during his primary school days, Nthonyana’s big break came in 1993 when Arsenal coach Styles Phumo spotted him.

“We were playing a tournament at Maseru Club with Dlamini United when Ntate Styles (now late) asked me to join his team’s development side called Bafana ba Arsenal.

“Things went so well for me and in 1996, I was promoted to the senior team that was playing in the elite league at the time.

“That same year, I was also promoted from the national under-17 side to the under-20 team, where I was with the likes of Lehlohonolo Seema.

“I then made it into the under-23 team before making my first national team (Likuena) appearance in 1999,” said Nthonyane.

In 2001, Nthonyana joined South African premier league side Ria Stars, but returned home after one month and without playing any competitive match after the team sold its franchise due to financial constraints.

However, the determined Nthonyana returned to South Africa a year later for trials at premiership outfit Hellenic.

“Following my disappointment at Ria Stars, I came back to Arsenal and in 2002, former Arsenal player ntate Likhetho Mokhati, hooked me up with Hellenic, and after passing the trials, I was registered with the reserve team.

“But I didn’t stay long at Hellenic; when I came home to join the national under-23 side the same year in 2002, and Arsenal owner, Thabo Makakola, begged me not to go back to South Africa, saying the team was struggling without me. I listened to him and I rejoined Arsenal once again.”

However, in 2003, Nthonyane was back in South Africa once again, joining National First Division side Bloemfontein Young Tigers.

“I stayed four seasons at Tigers, and when I decided to return home in 2007, I joined LCS. I had realised that age was no longer on my side and also had a groin injury. That’s why I decided not to renew my contract with Young Tigers although I could have stayed at the club if I had wanted to.”

With LCS, the left-footed midfielder went on to win the league title three times—in 2007/08, 2010/11, and 2011/12. Nthonyane also won the Vodacom Spectacular and MGC Top 8 tournament  in 2008 with the correctional service outfit.

Asked what has changed in the game over the years, Nthonyane said: “In the old days, we used to have locals playing outside the country such as Teele, Seema and many others. This was because we would give our all during the game back then. I played with senior players I admired, which made me work hard to ensure I was as good as them.

“But that cannot be said about the current crop of players, which is one of the reasons they are struggling to make it outside the country.”

Nthonyana said during his days at the now-defunct but then feared Arsenal, players used to have a lot of physical training and he believes that’s one of the major reasons he is still playing the game at the ripe age of 40.

“We used to train a lot at Arsenal and also when I moved to South Africa. I think that is where the problem is with local players these days; most don’t like to put in extra effort in training and need to be pushed all the time.

“The other thing that has not changed is how the players are treated by their clubs;  we are still way back when it comes to  professionalism and I don’t understand why we are even called semiprofessionals.

“Take the issue of contracts, for example, where teams are paying certain players and not all of them because some would be students and clubs only pay their tuition fee. The fee is as little as M1200 a year, but in South Africa, students get full salaries just like their other teammates.”

The former Likuena midfielder said lack of infrastructure was also one of the major drawbacks for domestic football.

“There hasn’t been much movement since I started playing football a long time ago, and one of the major problems is lack of proper facilities. We can’t expect to develop good players with the current state of our pitches which are bumpy, dusty and don’t offer players protection from the fans because they don’t have perimeter fences, for instance.”

Nthonyana was part of the Likuena team that lost to Zimbabwe in the final of the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Challenge in 2000 and believes the standard of local football is deteriorating.

“Our football standard is measured by the national team’s performance and if you can look at how Likuena have been playing of late, you will agree with me that we have been going down. Our junior teams used to qualify for international tournaments and Likuena once reached the  COSAFA final, but I don’t see that happening again anytime soon.”

The first born in a family of six, Nthonyana said the support he receives from his family has enabled him to last this long in the game.

“My family is very supportive; from my sister, aunt and wife. We used to spend time with my (now late) father discussing football and sometimes we would even argue because we were supporting different teams but he was also very supportive of my career.

“I have so much to tell when it comes to my football journey and I am proud of this history. However, it is sad that I couldn’t realise my dream of playing in the South African premier league although I came so close. But still, I played against some premier league sides during tournaments while I was with Tigers, so at least, that is something to be grateful for,” said Nthonyana who further said his “hunger” for football remains in-spite of his age.

“I am looking forward to working with Fish (LCS coach Mpitsa Marai). We played together at Arsenal and the national team so I believe he understands me and knows my strengths hence I am now back in the team. I am making sure I maintain my fitness by doing extra training on my own. I cannot say I am expecting much now from football but just willing to help young players and the team to return to its former glory.”

Fact File

Name: Kutloisiso Nthonyana

Nickname: Bascu

Date of birth: 10 September 1975

Place of birth: Qoaling Ha Besele

Teams played for: Dlamini United, Bafana ba Arsenal (both in lower division), Arsenal, Liphakoe and LCS (current), Hellenic (SA), Ria Stars (SA) and Bloemfontein Young Tigers (SA)

Honours:  Played for national under-17/20/23 and senior team. Won three premier league titles with LCS (2007/08, 2010/11, 2011/12), MGC Super8 and Vodacom Spectacular (both in 2008).

Favorite meal: Pap and milk

Dream car: Audi Q7

Role model: Likhetho Mokhati and Ndalama Monyane

Marital status: Married

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