By Dino Ballotti
Football is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle. Those in the profession will tell you of the sacrifices they have endured to get where they are. Be it a coach or a player, we spend all our days on a football pitch.
There is never an easy road to success and as the saying goes, what you put in is what you get out. I have learnt through my years as a football coach that developing a starlet takes more than just training drills and technique. The key ingredient is attitude. Skill alone will only take you so far, but with attitude you can move mountains.
Today I would like to highlight a player I coached from the age of 11 who is turning 21 in a few short weeks. This young man epitomizes determination, perseverance and attitude, in my opinion he is the ultimate player!
It all started when he was playing football for a primary school in Windhoek a number of years ago, I was the schools u13 coach and the player in mention, let’s call him Sweetness, was a 10- year- old lighty that ‘was too young’ to play for the u13 side. At the time, the school did not have an u11 team participating in the CSSA league and Sweetness was the only player you would find kicking a ball by himself during the u13 sessions. It only took a few sessions to call him up and to cut a long story short he finished that season as the schools top goal scorer.
In his final year of primary school I recall how he would attend my school holiday sessions, starting at 9 and concluding at 12, the camp focused solely on fast tracking individual skill and increasing work load. There were many a mornings only a handful would attend as school holidays meant off to the farm for our Tuura boys and Swakop for the town boys, yet, Sweetness religiously attended all sessions being the first to arrive and the last to leave. It was during this stage of his career at the age of 13 that he was invited to attend an official trial in Portugal from the same academy the now world renowned Nani learnt his trade. Despite his return to the Land of the Brave the feedback was positive and more achievements were soon to follow. Sweetness continued to attend both Manchester United and Chelsea F.C soccer schools, picking up the prestigious accolade of best player on and off the pitch from the world famous Carrington training ground.
Being the best does not come by chance, and the hours spent perfecting his Gareth Bale type game reaped its rewards. He formed part of u17 league title side under the mentorship of Mario Carreira and Christy Guruseb at the tender age of 15, captained the City of Windhoek’s team that toured Germany and played an instrumental part in his school sides dominance of high school football picking up cups and trophy’s along the way, this was proof enough that he was of a special kind. At the age of 16 he was plying his trade in the 1st division, before signing for a Namibian Premier League side, all while still a scholar. On his pre season cup debut he scored a brace which was a sign that a new talent had finally arrived. As fate may have it, the Almighty only challenges the best and Sweetness sustained a knee injury that would have found many immediately hanging up their boots. This happened to be his second surgery and meant he would have to undergo intense rehabilitation and bio-kinetics if he were to realize his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Fast forward to 2012, after being invited by Jomo Sono himself to trial at Cosmos F.C, at the time still in the PSL, he now holds a full football scholarship from the University of Stellenbosch, and excellent academic rapport and a bright future ahead all at the youthful age of 20, his story inspires myself and many others who know how hard he has worked, overcoming career threatening injuries and never doubting this was what he was meant to do.
Namibia need more role models, we all need to inspire others, in which ever way or form, only by doing this will we have more world champions, professional footballers, leading lawyers, respected teachers, nurses etc. Sweetness is undoubtedly my role model, he may be my junior, and I am over the hill in terms of my athleticism but the belief and encouragement I get from following him inspires me to want to be the best I possibly can be.
In life, attitude is everything, the best footballers the world over will tell you that skill and ability will only take you that far. It is the free kicks on an open Delta Secondary School goal when no one is watching, the road work on the western bypass before we all wake up to start our day and the mental strength of a champion that undeniably separates the good from the great.
The ultimate player(s) have the attitude!
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015