Bevan Fransman gets emotional when he talks about his love for football, the Highlands Park defender coming close to tears.
“I love this game. What football has given me,” he says, before pausing to compose himself.
“Football has been my life. I respect the game. I love the game. I know what I need to do to be ready for a season. I do my part, whether the coach plays me or not; that’s his decision but I definitely make it a hard choice to leave me out.”
Football has taken Fransman all over the country playing for clubs like Chiefs, Swallows, SuperSport, Bloemfontein Celtic, Maritzburg United and his current home, the Lions of the North.
The 35-year-old also had two stints abroad - in Belgium, where he spent a year, and Israel for four years during his time at Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Tel Aviv.
“A few days ago, I was sitting and thinking, flippin’ hell, it’s been a long journey’,” Fransman says. “Ups and downs, yes. But football’s given me everything I have in my life. I just hope the young player starting out finds the joy and values I found in football.”
The veteran defender doesn’t count trophies in his list of accomplishments despite winning two league titles with Chiefs who Highlands host at Makhulong Stadium tomorrow.
It’s the growth of young players, who he has shared some pearls of wisdom with, that makes Fransman proud of his contribution.
“In the last few years what has motivated me is family,” he says.
“It has been a big factor. Once you have kids, you aren’t doing it only for yourself anymore. It changes everything.
“The approach has been different, and the reward has been different. I enjoy seeing young players progress. Even if I can have the smallest influence on the next generation, it brings me joy. I enjoyed seeing (Fortune) Makaringe turn out for Pirates. It’s fantastic. I saw Makaringe arrive as an MDC player, a shy little kid. (Siphesihle) Ndlovu and (Lebogang) Maboe, the same. To see where they started and where they are, it’s heart-warming.”
The Lions of the North will start their Absa Premiership campaign against a familiar face for Fransman in Ernst Middendorp. The German coach signed Fransman at Chiefs, Celtic and Maritzburg. The two have a close bond and good understanding of one another.
But those sentiments will be put aside as both men look to start the season with a win. As much as Amakhosi boast a glittering past and will enjoy the lion’s share of the sold-out crowd in Makhulong, Highlands have an edge as they finished higher than Chiefs in the league and will fancy their chances in their own “Slaughterhouse”.
“It’s a bit compact compared to other stadiums,” Fransman says, explaining what makes Makhulong a tough venue for visiting teams.
“A lot of the teams like the space they get from the big stadiums we are blessed with in our country. At Makhulong they have to change their tactics and that works in our favour.”