JOHANNESBURG - The first major trophy to grace Free State Stars’ trophy cabinet in over two decades has inspired the club’s longest serving member to ensure that Ea Lla Koto doesn’t wait that long again for another major title.
Paulus Masehe, who will start his 10th season at Stars on Saturday, lifted the Nedbank Cup in May to fulfil a lifelong dream of giving children from QwaQwa the rare privilege of seeing their hometown club be crowned champions. Masehe was 11 years old when Stars’ class of 1994 won the Coca-Cola Cup.
He vividly remembers being on the street and running after the team’s bus during their trophy parade. In the near future another child will say the same thing about Masehe and his generation who returned from Cape Town with the Nedbank Cup and a place in the Caf Confederation Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
“It’s great to win things because now you start dreaming big like the other teams that dream big. It’s a huge morale-booster. It shows our youngsters that if you really work at it, nothing is impossible. You can achieve anything that you set your mind on. We want to build from what we achieved last season. Things are going well for us so far. The big dream is now to go for everything that’s at stake,” the Stars skipper said with a conviction that can only come from having tasted success.
“We’ve got an opportunity to compete for everything, including the MTN8 so why wouldn’t we want to go all the way and win it because it’s an opportunity that you gave yourself by doing well? But we have to remain humble because if you get carried away football will humble you.”
Football certainly humbled Stars’ opponents on Saturday, Bidvest Wits, who went from champions to chumps in a terrible Absa Premiership title defence. The Clever Boys want to bounce back from last season’s disastrous campaign while Stars will look to continue being their hoodoo team.
A positive start is important for Ea Lla Koto in a season that will see them fly the country’s flag in the Confederation Cup later this year. “We are not a team of superstars. We are a hardworking team. That’s our strength. We need to stick to that and leave the other stuff aside,” Masehe said.
Ea Lla Koto are among the dark horses in the league race. They have kept the core of the squad that helped them punch above their weight last season. They also kept coach Luc Eymael who was on the wanted list of some teams in the country and outside. But the most important member of this Stars team is Masehe from QwaQwa who has seen the club go from almost being sold to winning the country’s premier knockout competition.
Masehe’s rugged nature and commitment is the embodiment of what Stars are all about. The feeling from those in Bethlehem is that last season’s success was just the beginning of more good things to come. “It’s very important to have someone who grew up that side and he understands how things are done,” Masehe said.
“The experience that I accumulated from playing for Sundowns and Orlando Pirates is really working for them because of the knowledge that I bring into the team. And I am sharing with the youngsters so they know what you need to do to become better, make it and stay for such a long time in football. The mentality has changed in the team, instead of being just an ordinary team that just participates in the league we are now a team that challenges for things and wants to be much, much better.”