TWENTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD Maritzburg United striker Ayanda Nkosi always knew that he would end up playing in the Premier Soccer League.
But, unlike most footballers, his journey took him through the halls of academia as his parents felt he needed something to fall back on should his football not go according to plan.
“I’m currently in my second year of my BCom in economics and econometrics degree.
“I was playing for the varsity side and our coach Bradley Carnell was in touch with [former United] coach Ernst Middendorp, who came up to see us play in June,” Nkosi, who hails from Secunda in Mpumalanga, told Weekend Witness.
“Middendorp liked what he saw and he invited me for trials and everything has gone on from there,” he said.
“My plan was always to play in the PSL, but my parents wanted me to focus on academics at first.
“I’ve just finished my second year, and I have one more left and then I’ll have my degree. I’ve been going between Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg so far and to write my exams. It’s been difficult. It really has.”
It was his mother, he said, that made him see the light and convinced him to get his academic qualification.
“One of the things she said to me was ‘what if you had a serious injury and you were done?’ At least now I have something behind me that I can fall back on.”
He supports the idea of footballers furthering their studies.
“Football is a changing game and you need to be able to take in a lot of information, which school helps teach you how to do. I think it’s one of the bare necessities.”
Nkosi had a dream start to his life in the PSL when he scored for Maritzburg United within the first four minutes of his career as a professional footballer when they defeated Mpumalanga Black Aces at Harry Gwala in September, their last win at home.
Last month, he scored his second for the club against Golden Arrows in Umlazi with his first touch of the game after coming on as a 69th minute substitute.
Speaking about the game in which he notched his first goal, he said: “It was a special game for me. It was my first PSL game ever. It was really amazing and I couldn’t have had a better start to my career.”
His dream is to one day play abroad, and he had hopes of donning the national jersey, first at U23 level, and at senior international level in the future.
Nkosi also had his eye on the 2014 African Nations Championships in South Africa, which are literally around the corner.
“It’s up to the coach [Gordon Igesund] whether I am selected or not. A good thing is that he has said he will be looking to use younger players. If I’m in his mind for the competition, then that would be lovely. If not, then I’ll use that as a push to get better and focus on other goals,” he said.
Another thing that has changed for the youngster was that he was easily recognised by fellow students whenever he went back to UJ, but his friends remained the same.
“Those who didn’t know me have recognised me as they see me on TV from time to time. How they’ve been to me has changed.
“Not so much my friends. They’re still clowns and for them, I’m still the same person,” he said.
United’s PSL encounter against Wits on Monday at Harry Gwala will now kick off at 6 pm instead of 8.15 pm.