Humble, hard-working Nomvethe still going strong
Having made his professional breakthrough at African Wanderers in 1997, Nomvethe was an ordinary teenager hoping to play for one of the big clubs in local football, represent his country, and possibly make a move abroad some day.
And to say that “Bhele” has ticked all those boxes would be an understatement. A season after a fine debut campaign at Wanderers, Nomvethe joined Kaizer Chiefs, the most successful club in the country.
But despite the pressure of joining the Glamour Boys, Nomvethe lived up to expectations and his eye for goal, discipline and humility made him a household name in South African football. And just three years later, he moved to Italy where he joined Udinese.
His stints abroad included various loan spells, but even when he returned home to join Orlando Pirates in 2006 on loan, Nomvethe didn’t run out of options abroad and joined Danish giants Aalborg BK soon after.
On returning home in 2009, he joined Moroka Swallows to become one of only a handful of players to play for all three Soweto giants. Even at 34, Nomvethe continued to prove that class is permanent as he won the Footballer of the Season award with the Birds.
“I never thought I’d finally play for big teams locally - to me that was only a wish - and from thereon succeed and go and play in Europe. But I knew that I had to continue doing my best,” Nomvethe explained.
“I knew that talent alone was not enough so I had to work hard. I also knew that I shouldn’t abuse my talent. I knew that by doing well I will ensure that I get where I wanted to go in my career.”
Nomvethe’s success is well documented in local and European football, and his stints with the national team also tell a story of a player who knew that he’d reach anywhere he wanted to go as long as he set his body and mind accordingly.
Not every player will reach the heights of playing in the biggest football event, the Fifa World Cup, but Nomvethe is no ordinary footballer and he represented Bafana Bafana in two global showpieces - in 2002 in South Korea/Japan and in 2010 on home soil.
He made one appearance for South Africa during the 2010 tournament - the first in Africa - coming on as a late substitute when Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira’s men defeated France 2-1 in the last match of the group stage.
“The fact that I played in two Worlds Cups makes me very happy. I didn’t expect any of that. It’s something that’s special because all the players dream of playing in the World Cup some day,” Nomvethe said.
Nomvethe, now 42, is still playing professional football (for GladAfrica Championship side Uthongathi) after coming out of retirement this season, and he’s been quite impressed with the state of the South African game a decade after the country hosted the World Cup.
“All I can say is that there’s been growth in local football since we hosted the World Cup. Our league is tough, and all the players can see that the chance to play for the national team is open to everyone,” he said.
"But as a player you need to perform first at club level, then you’ll be selected for the national team. As you can see nowadays, football is paying well so the youngsters have to make sure that they take care of themselves so that they are well off during retirement.”