Until agreeing terms with South African club Free State Stars in this January transfer window, Simisani Mathumo had been to Township Rollers what Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville were to Manchester United, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher had been to Liverpool, Paolo Maldini at AC Milan or Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez at Barcelona- the quintessential one club man.
Mathumo, who only turned 27 just two months ago (last November) but has already spent a decade in the Rollers first team, shared his memories of his long service in Popa Blue and his ambition of making the grade in South Africa.
“I have had a great time at Rollers, and everyone has been good to me; my teammates, the technical team, management, the fans,” Mathumo says. “I’m grateful for the time I have had at the club. I’m glad the move to the PSL is finally happening. There was a time I went to Ajax Cape Town, but the deal fell through; Chippa United at some point wrote a letter to Rollers, but somehow nothing materialized, and then there was interest from Highlands Park and at a point I thought it was almost a done deal, again, nothing happened. So even with the latest deal, I was a bit nervous, but this time it happened.”
A school kid when he started out with the Township Rollers development team in 2004-5, working under the likes of Oupa Kowa and current Popa kit manager Tshepo “Rasta” Lentswenyane, Mathumo spent a season on loan at lower division side Highlanders in Molepolole before being established in the first team.
“When I was with the Rollers development side, we often had friendly match practices with the senior team, and that is when I got to make an impression and got promoted to the full Rollers squad. The 2009-10 season was really great; in the backline I got to play around seasoned players like Itayi Gwandu, Oscar Ncenga, Edwin Olerile, with Lawrence Majawa in the holding role in front of us. I alternated with Pius Kgolagano for the right back berth; he was another experienced player. I got to be guided into the team, and that season we won the league and Coca Cola Cup,” he recalls.
Mathumo has gone on to win six league titles; the 2009-10, 2010-11, 2013-14, 2015-16 2016-17 and 2017-18 championships, and together with Ncenga, was this season on the verge of a seventh title, which would match the record of club legends’ Persia Diago and Oris Radipotsane’s haul of seven national league medals they won under Chibaso Kande and later Ezekiel Mpofu during the club’s glorious era between 1979 and 1987.
“I am happy that we have achieved a lot at Rollers over the past few years,” Mathumo adds. “We have been consistently winning titles and even took the club to the group stages of the CAF Champions League, and although we did not match that achievement this time, we have laid the foundation.”
“Unfortunately, in my last two games I committed silly mistakes and I feel I cost the team five crucial points (in the 3-1 loss to Jwaneng Galaxy and 1-1 draw with Notwane). Maybe the imminent move to South Africa became a distraction and I lost focus. I just don’t know why it happened; but there really is no excuse because as a professional you have to give 100 per cent all the time. I apologise to everyone at the club. I leave with a lot of great memories and I am grateful to everyone at Rollers. The fans have always been good to me. I want to fulfil the ambition of playing in the South African PSL, it has always been a personal dream. But should I ever return to the local league, there is no question about which team I would want to play for. It has to be Rollers,” Mathumo says, as he bids farewell.
Copyright 2019 The Official Township Rollers FC Website. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.rollersfc.com as the source
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