JOHANNESBURG - There was no way Rooi Mahamutsa was going to quietly bow out of the beautiful game. This is, after all, the man who gave the Grim Reaper his famous menacing stare and the bastard retreated with his tail between his legs.
The 36-year-old from Standerton in Mpumalanga survived a horrific car accident in 2014. The steel barricades on the road went through his BMW on a rainy day in Johannesburg, taking over the most of his automobile which was written off.
But Mahamutsa miraculously came out unscathed. He went to training the following day as if nothing had happened.
The tough-as-nails defender has also come out of his move from Orlando Pirates to the sleepy-town of Bethlehem in 2016 intact, making the most of what many pundits saw as a step backwards at best and the last kick of a dying horse at worst.
This “dying horse” will be kicking for glory with Free State Stars in the Nedbank Cup final against Maritzburg United in Cape Town on Saturday.
“This wasn’t a step back,” Mahamutsa said. “I wouldn’t call this a step back because the players we have here are also good. If you are a football player, you must be ready to go anywhere because you never know where this career will lead you. You must be ready for anything.
"Football is my passion. I have been playing the game since I was young. Even if they say go to Venda tomorrow, I will jump at the opportunity because I love football. I don’t care where I am playing, whether it’s a small team or a big team as long as I am playing football - I am fine with it.”
Mahamutsa is a vital cog in Stars’ quest to become champions for the first time since 1994. He, along with seasoned campaigners Patrick Phungwayo, Thela Ngobeni and Paulus Masehe bring a wealth of experience not only because they have been in the game for a long time but they also have played in games of this magnitude a number of times.
Their experience and 'cool heads' will come in handy for a number of players who are appearing in their first final.
“This isn’t the first time I will be playing in a final but the feeling is a bit different. It’s a bit more special with Free State Stars because not many people expected us to be here,” Mahamutsa said.
Should Stars win, there will be a plenty of firsts for most of their players - their first title and first time playing in the continent as the winners of the Nedbank Cup will represent South Africa in the Caf Confederation Cup next season.
Mahamutsa has been there before too. He reached the final with the Buccaneers in 2015 and scored the winning goal against Esperance in Tunisia in the semifinal of the 2013 Caf Champions League.
“Playing in the continent is a great feeling because it is another environment,” Mahamutsa said. “I have been speaking to the guys, telling them that let’s go all out in the final so that we win this trophy and you get to experience the environment that’s out there.
"It’s totally different compared to domestic football. I have been looking forward to returning there. We will try our best so that we can go and play the Confederation Cup.”