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I met Walt-AH! Mokoena (pictured) the other day. Yes, I had to spell his name like that because that’s how he pronounced it on TV, back in his SABC sports commentary days.
If it wasn’t for our interview, I’d have gone to the grave thinking he’s an arrogant Robert Marawa wannabe. But, much to my shame, the man is nothing short of a gentleman, well- spoken and passionate about everything to do with sport.
“In 2010 I worked on the opening and closing [World Cup] matches. I also did every Bafana Bafana game throughout the tournament,” said Mokoena. “But I had made a commitment to leave SABC Sports for Paris after the World Cup and my superiors were not sure if I would follow up on it, which I did,” he explained.
Coming from the school of thought that quitting when you are still ahead is best, Mokoena braced himself for a new life where he’d live in a foreign land where people spoke a language he knew little about.
“Sitting in a World Cup studio where you have Felipe Scolari, a world champion, who was with Brazil in 2002, and George Weah, possibly the greatest African player of all time, the only man to win African, European and World Player of the Year in one year… for me, I wasn’t going to find a greater opportunity to exit the stage,” he explained.
You may be wondering what was waiting on the other side of the world for him, but Mokoena confessed that it was more of a leap of faith than a lucrative job offer.
“I just took my bags and my passport and hit OR Tambo to Paris to start a new life and that was probably the most daring move I have ever made, but also the most rewarding,” he said.
Two years and a few French lessons later, Mokoena has bounced back on to the broadcasting scene.
With the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) coming to the country next year, the young presenter was approached by Trace TV’s sports division, Trace Sports, with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“It was a coincidence. I was not even looking at doing work on television,” he said. “It just so happened I was talking with a mate of mine who said I could meet the people behind Trace. I was always watching Trace in France and I liked their programming. But I never thought I would be the one working there, not because I didn’t think I was good enough, but because I hadn’t even decided if I wanted to do TV work again,” he said.
But through a chance meeting the two parties chatted and Trace Sports pointed out to Mokoena that they were going to produce an Afcon show which will be broadcast in South Africa and a few countries in Europe, including France.
“They looked at my profile, saw my experience and what I could bring to the table and immediately we were on to it. We started talking about the concept where I have a co-presenter in London who used to work for MTV. We shot the promos of the show and they are currently airing in France and England,” he explained.
Mokoena then flew home to shoot a couple of shows in Soweto and in downtown Joburg.
“The creativity and style of Trace is really incredible. You just see that in any of their other shows. I have seen their programmes when they interview sports personalities and I was taken aback. Now I am their presenter,” he exclaimed.
“For me the main attraction was that I had worked for one audience in South Africa, now I have access three different audiences: South Africa, France and England, and that is a big deal,” he said.
• Look out for Walter Mokoena from January 18 on Sports Trace (channel 188) as he lets you in on the personalities behind the beautiful game.