JOHANNESBURG – While his career remained stagnant, wandering in the wilderness, Luvuyo Memela watched his peers shine and for a brief moment he thought of quitting football.
But Thulani Hlatshwayo, his former teammate at Ajax Cape Town, convinced him otherwise and that led to Memela enduring the long, bumpy road he took to eventually play for one of the biggest teams in the country - Orlando Pirates.
“I didn’t quit because I saw my peers succeeding and that motivated me to also be at their level,” Memela said. “Tyson was my biggest source of motivation. He kept encouraging me and told me to not give up because he believed 'my time will come'.
“His words and how his career took off motivated me. I was at Ajax when the likes of Thulani Serero and George Maluleka came there and their careers took off. I played with the likes of Cole Alexander, Clayton Daniels, Daylon Claasen and Sameehg Doutie.
Seeing them grow while my career remained stagnant helped me because I pushed even harder as I believed I could also make it at the highest level. But during the dark times I thought maybe this wasn’t meant for me, that I should quit and focus on school like my mother was telling me.”
Memela is now reaping the rewards of his patience. The 30-year-old is making a name for himself at the Buccaneers. He is looking to make Pirates a home having struggled to settle down at his previous clubs.
Memela leaped from the amateur ranks at Embekweni to join the Urban Warriors where he never played for the first team despite spending three years there. He went to Hanover Park in the NFD, then Chippa United before going back to the amateur ranks with Cape Town All Stars whom he helped gain promotion to the NFD. Pirates took him out of the wilderness in 2015.
“I know that it’s up to me to play regularly at Pirates,” Memela said. “For me to do that I need to ensure that I give my all whenever I am given a chance, no matter how small that chance is. I know where I come from and I don’t want to go back there. Even if we lose, I must leave the field knowing that I gave it my all and people who are watching must say that we can’t fault him on anything.”
That spirit will be handy for the Buccaneers who visit Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld tomorrow afternoon. This will be their first meeting at the venue since a section of Pirates’ fans ran amok and invaded the pitch last year with violent intentions as the club was dismantled by the Brazilians who won 6-0.
“We aren’t even thinking about that match,” Memela said. “I am not thinking about that match because that’s in the past. What I know is that there is a huge difference between this team and the one that lost 6-0.
“This team plays football. There is direction. We know what we are doing. The bond is stronger. We fight for one another and we cover for one another. I know that when (Innocent) Maela goes forward I must cover for him. We are stronger mentally and are driven.
It’s not like we were poor that day. We had chances and we even hit the post. If we had scored early things would have been different. We will go into this match confident after not only winning our first match of the year but also scoring three goals.”