Perseverance pays off for Ntshangase
When his peers, whom he had captained in the Bidvest Wits junior ranks were all getting promoted to the senior team and he was left behind, Phumlani Ntshangase felt football was perhaps not where he was meant to make a living and he thought of quitting.
Phumlani Ntshangase of Bidvest Wits celebrates as Wits are crowned the 2016/2017 Absa Premiership Champions (Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix)
“I phoned my mom and told her: ‘Mom, look I don’t think anything is going to happen for me here at Wits. I don’t think football was meant for me. I think I must come back home and continue with my studies’.
“I had just completed my matric, and I was really considering a career elsewhere,” Ntshangase told Phakaaathi.
But his mother discussed the issue with his older brother who would have none of it and telephoned him to tell him to keep pushing, promising him that he was closer to his breakthrough than he thought. And so it happened.
“A lot of guys were called up to the senior team and others being signed by other teams. And I was close to giving up. But when my brother told me to be patient I decided to stick it out,” he said.
When Gavin Hunt joined Wits in 2013, he gave Ntshangase and nine others a chance to cement their places in the senior team. But although he had a contract with the senior team, he was left to train with the juniors.
“When Gavin signed me for the senior team that is when I realised that I could actually crack it even though I was still training with the juniors at the time. He told me where I needed to improve and I did that. I am grateful for the chance and belief he showed in me,” said the 22-year-old.
Hunt had a talk with the youngster and converted him from a central defender to a midfielder.
“He told me he could see I was intelligent and could read a match quite well. He said that was a great asset for a central defender but was worried about my height.
“He told me he could play me at the back because he trusted I would do well, but I saw his point and agreed to move and I am happy. I think I am more suitable here and it was a challenge I welcomed,” he said.
Having won almost every trophy on offer in South Africa with the Telkom Knockout added just last weekend, at such a young age has made the Umlaziborn youngster even hungrier for more. He said having the likes of Steven Pienaar and Daylon Claasen, who have played in Europe, in the team has added more fuel to his burning ambition to play overseas.
“They tell us what it’s like and it makes you just want to go there and experience it for yourself. It has always been something that lived somewhere inside of me and now I want it even more,” he said.
But a more urgent matter for Ntshangase is breaking into the Bafana Bafana team and with Stuart Baxter expected to rebuild his team after a disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign, the Wits youngster could be one of the players the national coach calls on.
“I have a lot on my bucket list and playing for the national team is first on that list. I believe it is an automatic desire for every player to represent his national team. The second would be to go overseas…”