JOHANNESBURG – Siphelele Ntshangase believed in his talent so much that he bought a one-way ticket to Thohoyandou via Polokwane for trials without a place to sleep nor a single word of TshiVenda in his vocabulary.
The lad from Pongola in KwaZulu-Natal made the long trip, over 1 000km, from Durban to attend trials at Black Leopards with the belief that it would turn his life around.
Being rejected by Golden Arrows, Thanda Royal Zulu and Mamelodi Sundowns didn’t knock his confidence.
“If you believe in yourself, nothing is impossible,” Ntshangase said at the Kaizer Chiefs Village in Naturena this week.
“I was driven by the fact I had something special that not many people had, which I wanted to share with the country. I knew I was good from an early age.
“The people who didn’t see that were just delaying the inevitable. So, why would I even think about a place to sleep when I was looking for a job?”
Kosta Papic, whose presence and football philosophy motivated Ntshangase to make the long trek, liked what he saw and signed the 24-year-old in 2014.
“Stash”, as he is affectionately known, was one of two players who got contracts from around 500 hopefuls.
Former Leopards goalkeeper Robert Modiade took him in and helped him settle.
Ntshangase didn’t tell anyone in his family he had signed his first professional contract. They only saw him lead Leopards to a 2-1 win over Chiefs in the 2015 Nedbank Cup.
“The only disappointment I have with signing for Chiefs now (from Baroka FC) is that my grandmother isn’t alive to see this day – me playing for the team I supported as a child, the team I told her I would play for one day.
“She passed away in 2016. Her death hit me hard. It almost disturbed me, because she has been in every step of my progress in my life and career.
“Even though she didn’t understand football, she knew how much I loved it, which is why she allowed me to skip some my chores and even church to play. It’s sad that she isn’t around to see me finally realise one of my dreams.
“But what helped me heal is the desire to ensure that wherever she is, she is proud of me. She must see her son is doing well in his life and career.”
Ntshangase struts around at Naturena like he has been at the club for ages, even though he hasn’t even finished a month there.
You also wouldn’t tell he is a newbie, seeing how seamlessly he has fitted into the team.
Amakhosi fans, who have waited for his arrival for a long time, went crazy at the sight of him preparing to make his debut against Polokwane City at FNB Stadium two weeks ago.
Chiefs’ strikers got their flutes ready in anticipation of the “champagne passes” he promised.
Ntshangase delivered, starting the move that was finished by Dumisani Zuma in the win over Rise and Shine, and supplying the assist that helped Leonardo Castro score on debut against Bakgaga.
His performances in two matches in the famous black-and-gold showed that it wasn’t arrogance but confidence that made him promise to dish out champagne passes.
“I have always known that I have something special that people need to see. That’s what kept me going in a tough journey that saw me go through many obstacles to get here,” he said.
“You can’t buy talent. It’s either you have it or you don’t. I was born with this.
“Some people might think that I am arrogant in the way I speak, but that’s not true. It’s confidence in myself and my talent that makes me talk like this.”
Ntshangase has set himself the target of 10 assists this season, and in the next campaign he wants to score more than the 10 goals he scored in his debut season at Leopards in the National First Division.
And then there is following in the footsteps of legendary figures like Thabo Mooki, Doctor Khumalo and John “Shoes” Moshoeu, who played in the same position as him, making Amakhosi tick as the brains of the operation.
“Humility is important in everything that you do,” Ntshangase said.
“I respect them as legends of the club. But what I want to achieve in my time at Chiefs is to make sure everyone remembers my surname.
“I am not saying it’s all about me. Obviously the team comes first, but when I have retired, I want to ensure I leave a legacy that will see my name also mentioned among the club’s legends for what I did and not what I could do.”