Therlo Moosa can still remember how excited he was when, aged nine, he received his first pair of soccer boots.
“They were Nike Temple soccer boots – black and blue with stripes, ” he says. Ten years later, this Mitchells Plain striker has worn out more boots than he can remember, and is set for a career in the big leagues after being awarded Player of the Tournament and Top Goal Scorer accolades at the recent SAB League 2013 National Championship held in Stellenbosch. In the tournament, Moosa represented the Western Cape, which went on to claim the title of SAB League Champions after beating Mpumalanga 3-2 in the final.
Moosa, who matriculated from Oval North High School last year, has lived in Mitchell’s Plain his whole life. His mother, office assistant Sharon and his father, Ricardo, a City of Cape Town foreman, have been his biggest and proudest supporters since childhood.
“He loved the game from early on. If I wanted to find him, I would look for him outside and sure enough, he would be playing with the ball, drawing other kids to play barefoot in the street, ” said Sharon, who has watched almost every one of her son’s games since his days at Beacon View Primary School and is often the most vocal supporter on the sideline.
He attributes his skill in the ‘beautiful game’ to years of mentoring by a number of dedicated coaches.
He was taught the basics of soccer by Anwar Snyman of Ashley Rovers, a non-profit organisation and a member of the Local Football Association Mitchells Plain dedicated to development of youth through football. “Anwar found me on the street and told me to come and play soccer, ” said Moosa.
Finding the back of the net repeatedly did not just happen overnight, but was as a result of spending one-on-one time with coach Zahir Arendse, who has been with him through the past six years. “He is a very technical coach who can identify your problems and will work with you on them. He took me to the gym and has helped me with holding the ball up and improving my finishing – I used to miss a lot of chances at goals previously.”
Moosa has always played striker, displaying the ability to move fast and think on his feet.
In recent years, he played for the Morganster United club team, with his talent accelerating him into the under 17 team while still in the under 15 age category. “In Grade 10 I started playing in the Mr Price Soccer League, where I won top goal scorer for three years.”
His soccer heroes are Manchester United striker Robin van Persie and former Bafana Bafana player Benni McCarthy, who hails from Hanover Park, an area just a few kilometres from where Moosa grew up. Incidentally, McCarthy is South Africa’s all-time top scorer.
In the lounge before the soft-spoken striker is a coffee table crammed with trophies, while the wall behind him displays certificates and framed newspaper clippings which reference his talent and skillfulness as a player. One article, from local newspaper, Die Son, describes Moosa’s orange soccer boots as “golden” – a reference to his talent at scoring goals.
Moosa made his television debut when the final of the SAB League National Championships was televised live on SABC 1.
“The SAB League tournament was very exciting. The Western Cape coach, Gordon Witbooi, called me and asked me to attend the trials and I was picked for the 18-strong squad. It all happened very fast but we gelled quickly and had excellent discipline.”
He scored eight goals during the week-long national tournament, including one in the final which was played in wet weather conditions.
His face lit up and his smile flashed one gold tooth as he said: “I was aiming to become the Top Goal Scorer, but to win Player of the Tournament as well…I couldn’t believe it.”
As part of the SAB League National Championships, players participated in SAB’s Youth Diversion Programme facilitated by Footballers4Life, in the build-up to the tournament.
The programme is a new component of SAB’s recently extended commitment to local grassroots football development through the SAB League, and is aimed at driving positive social change amongst players. Facilitated by veteran South African footballers, including Silver Tshabalala of Amazulu, Cosmos and Black Leopards, it equips players with important life skills, including computer skills (CV writing, financial management); insight into non-administrative football careers (physiotherapy, fitness training; sports psychology) and administrative careers (public relations, management); and an introduction to the Learners License course.
“These are definitely skills which we soccer players need to be taught that will help us with our careers, ” said Moosa.
His 15-year old brother Thaswill is also a striker, who hopes to follow in his older brother’s footsteps. Moosa’s training regime sees him running every second day for an hour, doing weights at home and kicking a ball around with Thaswill on Lentegeur Soccer Fields every Thursday night, come rain or shine.
Since the conclusion of the SAB League tournament, the Moosa family phone has been ringing off the hook with Premier Soccer League (PSL) teams interested in signing the future star, who is thankful to SAB for giving him a platform to assist with his rise to fame.*
A recent opportunity to play a test game for Bloemfontein Celtic in Durban also saw Moosa fly in an aircraft for the first time. “It wasn’t a good feeling – I didn’t enjoy the take-off, ” he said, looking decidedly nervous while he recalled the flight.
But if he is to live up to his dream of one day playing for Manchester United in England, Moosa will have to make peace with flying. “I would like to play for an international team within the next three years. I just have to believe in myself and motivate myself to keep working towards my goals.”
Until Moosa’s big break happens, his mother will happily keep on doing battle with her son’s muddy soccer kits, making them pristine for him to go and shine on the field again.
*At the time of going to print, Moosa was in serious talks with Mamelodi Sundowns, who are interested in signing him up.
Written By Lauren Cohen