Masilela's rapid rise to the top
TSEPO Masilela may have had all the right skills to make the Bafana Bafana squad during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, but he knew that taking anything for granted would be suicidal.
It was in 2004 that Masilela made his professional debut for Hellenic Classic, but such was his rise that he joined Thanda Royal Zulu (which was Benoni Premier United at the time) in the same season.
At the time, Thanda wasn’t an ordinary team, considering that most that their stalwarts went on to sign for big clubs in European football.
Remember how then captain Bernard Parker went on to sign for FC Twente in the Netherlands, playing in the Eredivisie league in 2009?
Rewind to 2008, Masilela had made his own waves, joining Israel-based side Maccabi Haifa where he won two league titles.
So, such was his growth and maturity in Europe that representing Bafana in a major tournament on home soil was almost expected. But Masilela knew that it was only the technical team that could make the final decision.
“For me to be playing abroad at the time wasn’t pressure at all. It all came down to the coaches, because they had to make the final decision. So, whether you are playing in Botswana or wherever, it doesn’t matter,” Masilela said.
“For me, whenever we were in the national team camp we were all South Africans and we were representing our country. So, all in all there was no pressure. If you remember in the Confederation Cup, I played in all four matches.”
Given that Masilela had the lofty billing of playing abroad at the time, he came back to the local league and joined Kaizer Chiefs in 2012.
And to say that that did it all in local football would be an understatement. The 35-year-old went on to win four trophies - two league titles and two domestic trophies - under the tutelage of British coach Stuart Baxter in his three-season stay at the club.
But all that success doesn’t faze Masilela, who believes that he’s represented all the teams that he’s played for with pride.
“I’m just a player. I play to see the team and the supporters happy. I feel that’s my duty. I remember that at Chiefs I once won the players’ player of the season award, but those things they don’t matter,” the AmaZulu defender said.
“We won the league at the time and that gave me joy. The players’ player of the season, or the player of the season - that doesn’t matter. I want the big one - that we won the league.”
Yesterday, June16, marked a decade since Bafana played Uruguay in the second round of the group stage of the 2010 global showpiece.
It was the game that decided Bafana's fate in the tournament as they lost 3-0, and their draw against Mexico in the first game and win over France in the last game were not enough to take them to the knockout stage.
“It was very disappointing because we conceded three goals. I think that if we had at least lost by one goal we could have actually recovered in the other game against France,” Masilela said.