“Shoot for the moon and if you miss, you will still be amongst the stars” that’s how one can describe the journey for the football’s rising star that we are interviewing today. Born and raised in Marapyane, Tshireletso Motsogi now playing for a Premier Soccer League’s side Stellenbosch FC. From juggling a demanding University schedule and using his talent to actually reach for the stars by playing and rubbing shoulders against the country’s top tier football superstars. Our Sports Editor Shaq interviewed the man to understand how he is finding his new home in Stellenbosch, Western Cape.

Tshireletso Motsogi while still a student at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Image: Supplied

Shadrack Ngako (Shaq):               Tshireletso, or should I call you Ntshire/Domestos? Anyway thanks for your time.

Tshireletso Motsogi (Ntshire):     *chuckles* No its fine man, you can call me Ntshire, kind of reminds me of home.

Shaq:                  Great! Firstly, tell us about yourself.

Ntshire:               I was born and raised in a small village called Marapyane which is on the south eastern edge of Mpumalanga Province. I was raised in a God fearing family, from an early age I was taught to always pray and put God first in everything I do. I believe that is what gave me a good foundation to be where I am today. Another point to take note of about my childhood years which helped sharpen me was the stories told by my mother (a teacher by profession) about people she had taught and became successful in life. All because of respect and discipline. After high school I went to further my studies at the University of Witwatersrand (popularly known as Wits) where I graduated with a BSc. (Eng.) Metallurgy & Materials Engineering.

Shaq:                   Are you satisfied with what you have achieved during your time at Wits University, both academically and as a footballer?

Ntshire:               Yes! I am satisfied with what I have achieved at Wits because I managed to get my Metallurgical Engineering degree which was hard fought. Furthermore, I am happy that I managed to help Wits Football Varsity Cup Team into their first football tournament final in 2018 as a captain. Even though we did not win the tournament which was my wish, we ended up reaching a milestone that was never reached before.

Captain Domestos as Tshireletso was affectionately known while at Wits FC. Image: Supplied

Shaq:                   Tell us about your Stellenbosch move?

Ntshire:               After the Varsity football tournament in 2018 I was heartbroken and felt like it was time to hang up my soccer boots since there was no single team looking to give me a chance – this was because that was my final year in varsity. But I because of my positive attitude towards life, I kept training with the team and also playing in the SAB league also for the Wits University team.

                              Early 2019 I received a call from Mpho Nkotlha who got my number from an ex-teammate who also played for the University team as well. He asked to represent me, promising to do everything in his powers to find me a team. Moreover, he encouraged me to work even harder and never lose hope.

June 2019 came and I was invited for a two weeks trial with Stellenbosch FC, an opportunity which came at an unprecedented time as I had graduated earlier that year. It was a tough challenge for me, having only played in an amateur league side to come and train with a professional team (with a professional set up) at the highest level in the country. I had to work three times harder than before, but through all the adversities I impressed the coaches and the technical team. Managing to secure my first professional contract. I must say I will always cherish that moment.

Shaq:                   How different is playing in the Premier Soccer League as opposed to other leagues?

Ntshire:               Playing in the PSL is very hard especially coming from Varsity Football. The intensity, the competition as well as the expectations are too high; this is due to high and extremely tough competition that comes with playing in the country’s elite soccer league. Playing with and against players with more experience in terms of professional careers is both scary and motivating at the same time.

So this meant that I had to adapt to my new environment, adjust to the changes and work even harder than before but working with senior players with more years in the league – some with international experience, learning from them really helps a lot. All in all so far it has been a great learning curve for me and I’m enjoying it.

Shaq:                   Tell us about your debut match for Stellenbosch FC?

Ntshire:               My debut game was a Telkom Knockout Cup game against Orlando Pirates which was a very big game for me playing against one of the biggest team in the country. I was very nervous but mostly excited to share my talent in front thousands of people in the stadium and also millions watching on TV across the country.

                              It was a tough encounter which unfortunately saw us losing the match and subsequently bowing out of the tournament – that’s football man, we played our hearts out. Individually I enjoyed every moment of the game, learned a lot from it. It helped gain confidence for the next game.        

Shaq:                   How is it like playing under Steve Barker, the coach?

Ntshire:               Working under Coach Steve Barker has been a wonderful experience because he has dealt with so many inexperienced players like myself before in previous clubs he had coached. He always helps us improve and become better players and better human beings. He has been very supportive from the beginning and because his open door policy, makes being here a wonderful experience.

               The transition was difficult in the beginning, you know having spent most of my life in inland provinces now having to relocated to coastal, coach Barker really has made it possible for me to blend in both on and off the field. I will forever be grateful for the love and support he shows me. The potential, support and believe he sees in me will never go unnoticed. It’s because of him and his technical team that I see a better version of myself professionally.

Tshireletso Motsogi ten years ago with Morgan Gould vs. now as teammates at Stellenbosch FC. Image: Supplied

Shaq:                   What are your long term goals?

Ntshire:               Personally there is so much I want to achieve but professionally – the biggest one for me – is to have a successful football career and be the best I can be and help the team win trophies.

Shaq:                   Do you think Marapyane and surrounding villages have enough experience to follow up in your footsteps?

Ntshire:               There is a lot of talent back home, so much so I believe, can even reach bigger heights than I possibly can. But the major downside is that there are little to no resources to harness and nurture these talents and, that is something we need to look at and work hard to change. So many talents go wasted because of no exposure and proper guidance.

Shaq:                   How important is studying while playing professionally?

Ntshire:               Education is very vital when it comes to many things in life, football is short career in its nature and a lot can happen that can affect your career. Like many other professions especially with tough economic times our country finds itself in – multiple revenue streams are a need – education provides that level of cushion that one can fall back on when their days on the pitch have ended. It is highly recommended to study further even while you are a pro, this to help you maintain your lifestyle and that of your loved ones.

Shaq:                   What message would you like to relay to our young lads around our villages?

Ntshire:               Never give up, fight for your dreams! I came into the scene at the age of 26 and that’s because I never gave up when it was tough. When the dream seemed too far to reach, I soldiered on. I really hope this could inspire them. They should never stop believing in themselves and their dreams “When the time is right, He, the Lord will make it happen” Isiah 60:22.

Shaq:                   Tshireletso my man thanks for your time, we hope to see more of you – perhaps in the Champions League.

Ntshire:               Hahaha thanks for the vote of confidence my man, it can only be through God, hard work and determination. Good luck on your project at The Village Mag as well.

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