Agadir, Morocco – The first time Ayanda Patosi saw snow he was standing on the touchline for his Belgium side Lokeren, preparing to come on to face Anderlecht.
It was the European winter of 2011, the 18-year-old Patosi’s first season at his new club, and just one of many life adjustments from his home in Khayelitsha.
“In Cape Town we don’t normally see snow,” says Patosi.
“We were playing Anderlecht and the coach called me to warm up, and it came.
“It was nice, beautiful, but to be on the pitch, it was cold!”
Patosi is sitting in far warmer climbs as he tells this story, in a temperate Agadir as part of the Bafana squad that will face Morocco in an international friendly this evening.
Now 20, Patosi is relishing the potential opportunity to make his Bafana debut at the Agadir New Stadium, having fought his way back to fitness after seven months out with a ligament injury to his right knee.
Igesund has indicated he will probably use the young playmaker from the bench against the Atlas Lions, but either way, Patosi is clearly raring to go.
“Against Morocco I want to play, and I want the team to win the game.
“It will be nice if we can win here in Morocco,” he says.
“We have a good group and can win the game if we believe in ourselves.”
Patosi has had to already deal with a mentally tough side of the game, in fighting his way back from injury to be ready for the start of this season with Lokeren.
In the 2012/13 campaign, the Capetonian was flying in the Jupiler League, netting seven goals in a first round scoring streak (including a quite spectacular, youtube-able strike against Standard Liege), before being cut down by his knee ligaments.
The injury was caused by a rough tackle in a game on Christmas Eve 2012, though Patosi didn’t know the full extent at first, and even came out to join up with Igesund’s enlarged squad ahead of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
“I already had the injury, but I only felt it in my ankle,” says Patosi, who couldn’t train properly with the Bafana squad as a result.
Patosi even scored in his next game for Lokeren, but at the end of January 2013 he had to have an operation that left him on the sidelines.
“It is frustrating when you are doing very well, then this kind of injury, it kills you inside,” says Patosi.
“But I stood up as a man and did everything on my rehabilitation.
“I had difficult times but my team were there for me, and even gave me a break to go back to South Africa.
“I am also a player who speaks a lot with teammates so I didn’t have much time feeling lonely.
“My friends would come to my place or I would go to theirs and forget I was injured.
“The only time I missed playing was when I was training inside, and they were outside.
“That is when you really want to come back.”
Patosi’s strength in coming back from injury is certainly reflective of a man who had to grow up quickly, leaving home at the age of 16 to join up with the ASD Academy in Cape Town.
It was a couple of years later, playing for the Academy in Belgium, that Patosi was spotted by Lokeren.
“We played two games against Mechelen and Anderlecht and we won 4-1 and 4-0.
“I couldn’t believe it, I’d only played two games, and thought they (Lokeren) would want me on trial, but they called and said they wanted to give me a four- year contract.
“I scored in both (practice) games and was playing very well.
“I was going to sign for Gavin Hunt (who was at SuperSport at the time), he came to me and said he would sign me and make me a good player.
“But I decided to take up the offer from Europe, I signed and in the same year we won the Belgian Cup, it was a great feeling.”
As well as the weather, there have been other adjustments to life in Lokeren, a very different place from Khayelitsha.
“From where I come from to there, it is a world of difference,” says Patosi.
“It is quiet there and the place is different to the environment in Khayelitsha.
“I can walk around until 1am in Belgium, but I could never do that in Khayelitsha.
“There is a lot of poverty back home and it is easy come, easy go in Lokeren.
“It is also not a big city, so I can keep my focus. I don’t go out and stuff.
“When I have time I come to South Africa because I miss my mum and brother very much.
“But I have to focus on my job, I am doing this for them and for my career.”
Patosi also has a good friend in Belgium in KRC Genk and Bafana right-back Anele Ngcongca.
“Genk is a one and a half hour drive away, but we always meet, we speak the same language so it is easier for me,” says Patosi.
“I drive to Genk to meet Anele almost every week.
“We speak a lot about the game, he has really helped me a lot, especially in Belgium, and I listen to him because he knows better than me – he has experience in Belgium and knows about the national team. I take advice from him.”
One thing Patosi no longer needs advice on, however, is the harsh Belgian winter.
“Now I put red pepper (powder) in my boots,” he says.
“I saw another player do it. It burns and it stops my toes getting cold.”