• Footballer overcomes hardship to follow dreams of stardom

When 21-year-old Tafic footballer Shaolin Mothibedi won the man of the match award in a recent league game, it represented more than just an award for sporting excellence.

WELL DONE: Shaolin and valentine sports shop assistant Tebogo Phuthego discuss how best to spend the P200 man of the match award

Shaolin’s achievement and determination to succeed is even more remarkable when you consider his battle against adversity and personal heartbreak. The lad, who lost both parents when he was only six, told how football has helped him overcome the challenges and difficulties he faced in life.

Joining top side Tafic this season after playing for Divison two  outfits Tafa, Sladen Eagles and Mega Com, he won the man of the match award in his first ever appearance for his new club.

Relating his background he told how his sick parents died when he was doing standard one and he dropped out of school because there was no one to take care of him and pay for his tuition. His aunt Kedibonye Mogomotsi took him to Francistown SOS village, where he found a home and went back to school. Shaolin started playing football as an 11-year-old at Mahube Primary under the tutelage of his teacher Mr Tshepo.

“It is very difficult to grow up in an environment where you do not have parents. No one will treat you as their child, and even the love you get can never be the same. I have little recollection of my parents, but I have been told they loved me and my sister very much.

“Sometimes I cry when my school mates or friends talk about their parents because there have been dark times when I really needed the love and support a mother and father are supposed to provide,” he said.
He told how his dream was to play for a Premier league side by the time he was 19, and eventually play for the national team like his favourite player Diphetogo ‘Dipsy’ Selolwane. But when no to team came for him, he nearly gave up on his intended career.

“It seemed that even though I was doing well in division two, no one outside that league knew me or had noticed my talents. My big break eventually came last year when my team Mega Com participated in the Francistown Independence Cup and I was chosen man of the match. By then my current coach Blessing Moyo was coaching me at Mega and when he went to Tafic he signed me. At the same time Tasc also wanted to sign me, but I decided to go to Tafic because I understand Moyo better and trusted him,” Shaolin said.

Talking over his debut in the home game against Notwane recently, he said that he just went onto the field to do his best, impress the coach and the fans, but never expected to win the man of the match award for his mid-field role in the hard fought 2-2 draw. He told of his nerves playing in front of thousands of fans for the first time, but after a few well-placed passes he settled down and began to enjoy the game.

As for the future he said he is now looking forward to playing against Township Rollers’ Skhana Koko because he admires his play and is keen to test his skills against the speedy winger.
He message to other youth is ‘never give up on your dreams,’ urging youngsters who believe they have talent to put in the hard work and be serious about their ambitions.

“Do not be indulging in risky behaviour like drinking alcohol and using drugs as it will destroy your talent. There was a time when I was lonely, thinking of my parents and I ended up drinking alcohol. Peer pressure will not take you anywhere. Police officers sometimes hold workshops at SOS, where they told us the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse and the message really changed me. I decided to take their advice and quit, and not listen to those so called friends that think that drinking and taking drugs is cool.

“Football also helped me during the dark times because it was the light at the end of the tunnel. Now my time is divided between continuing my studies and going to the ground to practice and playing on match days. I don’t have time for much else, but I like it that way,” he said.

He added that if he could dedicate his award to anyone, it would be to his aunt. “Without her I don’t think I would even be here. By the time I was sent to SOS she was too young to look after me, but now she is a teacher and is always there for me. She is the mother I never had.”

The man of the match award is given to Tafic’s star player in each game, and is chosen by Tafic coach Blessing Moyo in consultation with team officials. The P200 prize is sponsored by Valentine Gift and Sport’s shop in Francistown as a voucher to be used against goods from the shop.