The “no” was emphatic, followed by a long and dramatic pause that ensured Gift Motupa, pictured, clearly drives his point across.
“No! I don’t regret joining Orlando Pirates,” said the versatile 23-year-old, who is on the books of the Buccaneers but was loaned back to Baroka FC at the start of the season.
“Joining Pirates has actually helped me toughen up. Every challenge you face in life helps you to grow. It’s hard to grow in an environment where you are comfortable because you take certain things for granted.
“As a person, especially as a striker, you must be strong mentally to survive everything that you will face.
“What I learned from my time at Pirates is that you must make the most of every opportunity you get. You must grab every opportunity, no matter how small, and play like your life depends on it because you never know when it might come again or if it’s your last.”
Motupa speaks in a low and measured tone but the message he conveys is loud. There isn’t a hint of anger towards the Buccaneers. He speaks about them with the same affection he uses when he talks about Bakgaga, who transformed him from a boy to a man, having joined the side as a 15-year-old high school pupil in 2009: into a man who represented his country at the 2016 Olympics Games in Brazil.
By then, in 2016, he was a Pirates player after signing for the Soweto giants in 2015.
Motupa might love both Baroka and Pirates, but Bakgaga seem to love him back, unlike the Buccaneers where he failed to make the grade.
He scored a paltry two goals in the two seasons he spent at Pirates with 34 appearances, but he has found the back of the net five times in only 11 matches at Baroka since his return.
“It’s not that I am a different player at Baroka. I think that the only difference is that I am getting regular game time here,” he says.
“The more game time a player gets, the more confident they are. I have regained my confidence and I am in a good space.”
Motupa has scored two more goals than Thamsanqa Gabuza, who leads Pirates’ scoring chart.
Motupa’s bright start at Bakgaga led to rumours that the Buccaneers might recall him in the January transfer window, especially with their misfiring attackers struggling to consistently put the ball in the back of the net.
“I don’t want to talk about what I would do should they recall me,” Motupa said.
The Buccaneers are yet to recall Motupa, which means he will return to Orlando Stadium tonight with Bakgaga in their first Absa Premiership match of the second half of the season.
“I don’t know what I will do if I get to play and I score against Pirates,” Motupa said.
“It will depend on my emotions. I could be able to control them and not celebrate, or I could be overwhelmed by the occasion and celebrate. But whatever I do, I will respect Pirates. They mean a lot to me because of the opportunity they gave me to take my game to the next level.”
The father-son relationship that Motupa enjoys with coach Kgoloko Thobejane has contributed to the former national Under-23 striker finding his scoring touch once again. The two first met in 2010 while Motupa was still at school and Thobejane was the club’s technical director.
“It’s not just me but everyone in the team loves him. He is like a father to all of us,” Motupa said.
“The love he gives us drives us to play for him and make him proud.”