Rise Above Hardship

Zukile Kewuti the former Masidlale Academy graduate, single-handedly fought through difficult circumstances which became a burden he was unable to shake. At times pushing through felt impossible when his environment forced him into situations that left him vulnerable and susceptible. Sink and become another statistic? Or swim and prove a system wrong that was created for you to fail.

Having lost his mother at the tender age of 6, he was at risk of succumbing to social ills which plagued the Nyanga region. In his teens he wondered what type of advice a parental figure would have given him when he found himself in dire conditions. All alone in the midst of addiction, poverty, crime, crying out for a character of hope and a symbol of perseverance.

Life before professional football without any mentors to steer you can become increasingly damaging to your character. Zukile found himself chasing a dream without any proper role models to steer him in the right direction. Finding a way to survive before going professional was challenging, but things looked up when he participated in the Bayhill Premier Cup and was subsequently selected for the under-19 Western Province team.

When the player returned home, opportunities were aplenty and a trial at Chippa United materialized, which he rejected.

Then Ikamva came knocking.

After spending a week on trial and impressing management, he was told that the club was unable to sign him. The rejection was hard to comprehend and as a solace he turned to cannabis as a form of escape and a way to suppress his emotions. This in turn, almost led to a life of crime.

“I just went back home, I was still a teenager that time. I sat at home and I just started smoking weed…relaxing, forgetting to go to training. You know you got those friends saying (things)…you know all this negativity. We were like five or six of us, then three of my friends started doing house breaking. Coming back with cash, ‘Is this the way?’ Ah-ah. You know what I’m dropping football.”

He recalled a moment when he went into a corner and started to watch his life play out in front of him from a distance.

“They started doing this, but at some point I just turned back, I didn’t go to robberies. I kept myself at a distance. You know what? I am not (going to) get involved in these things. They would tell me, ‘You think you (are) better than us, you will never survive in football’. Those kinds of talks, it use to influence me. Watching them in a car robbery and come back.”

“Then there was this deep voice saying that, if you want something you need to stand up and go get it.”

Getting up after any rejection speaks of someone of great character and willingness. And taking the hard road without real guidance, can be commended.

“You know the way I use to cry in the morning. I was not crying (because) I am disappointed. I was crying (because) I (want to) make it. I wanted to make it to the top. I used to sit at night asking myself if my mom was still around, how would life turn out for me. Those kinds of questions…Would she have helped me to see this thing out, we always connected.”

“Then there was this guy there near my street fixing cars, I started helping this guy. That old guy said, ‘you got a talent whereby it is your feet. I’ve got a talent with my hands. So now you need to do something about it. You want to eat, or you want to play football?’”.

“The opportunity I got to get to the professional level…I remember in 2016/2017 there was a mini tournament whereby there was Cape Town All Stars…Cape Town City had just arrived at that time and then there were ex-PSL players who use to play and now they are playing NFD and some are not playing anymore they just working.”

“So ya, it was U19s, U23s, there were like these LFA teams. I was still playing LFA. We went to the final of this mini tournament it was held in Nyanga and we lost that final. Then I recall ‘Bra Mike’ came and took me to Steenberg – that time it was Vodacom. I only played one season there and then from there I met Grant. And then from Grant the rest is history. I never looked back. They gave me an opportunity to play MDC, from there I just kept going until where I am now.”

Zukile took the leap from youth football to amateur football with the help of Mike Lukhubeni who is currently the Steenberg United head coach in the GladAfrica Championship. He supported his family with the money he got whilst playing in the Vodacom League, now known as the ABC Motsepe League. His desire to play top flight football was greater than being satisfied with the money that actually put food on the table. Leaving Amateur Football for the Reserve league also known as the DStv Diski Challenge was one of his hardest decisions.

Cape Town City

Zukile Kewuti CPT City full debut v Young Buffaloes

Zukile Kewuti made his full debut for Cape Town City in a 1-0 win over Young Buffaloes in the CAF Champions League on 20 February 2018 at Athlone Stadium. Photo source: Cape Town City FC Facebook page

This was made possible by Grant Veitch, the Chief Scout at Cape Town City Football Club, who initially noticed Zukile at Masidlale Academy whilst at Hellenic. However ‘Müller’ as his known, never made the grade. At a later stage Grant again spotted Zukile at Steenberg United, and brought him to Cape Town City’s Multichoice Diski Challenge team to add experience to their midfield.

Having no guarantees that he would be promoted to the Premiership side was a huge gamble, which Kewuti was willing to take.

The Nyanga-born midfielder was faced with a new environment which came with its own challenges. He was eventually promoted to the Premiership team, made several appearances before Coach Benni McCarthy parted ways with the club after a string of poor performances. This led to less game time under the new manager. Going eleven months without a start under the new coach at the Citizens. He turned up every day for training and remained a professional. Not asking questions or creating any trouble.

“I was just training, training and I thought eish what I’m I going to do. You know I am professional. I used to come to training on time. Then this new season came, and players started to leave. I thought you know what I am getting old, I am 25. I am not going to play this season; I could see no change in the coach you know. Let me just train and I kept on training. The window was closed for December but there something that just said to myself, I can’t take it anymore. I was like no, no, you played a defender in midfield and you have midfielders on the bench.”

“I thought let me not get involved, let me just call the person that brought me here. Imagine six to eleven months of not starting any games under the new coach. Remember, you must be with the team. That’s the reality. It’s my job. I’m in the squad, I need to travel.”

AmaZulu

“Then I realised I needed to move to another PSL team to get game time. Then it was when they appointed Benni as the head coach of AmaZulu. It was a sign”.

In February Cape Town City sent Zukile Kewuti out on loan to AmaZulu Football Club for the rest of the season. It was Benni McCarthy’s first signing at Usuthu.

‘Zuki’ as he is known seems happier than ever. Speaking about the honesty, understanding and fairness of the new technical team he is currently under:

“The guys are pushing, the coach is all about winning man. Working hard everything will be easy. We’ve improved, we can build-up, we score goals, we can be more clinical now. We have improved from number 14 to number 6. The gap at the top is not that big.

“The willingness of everyone, the guys want to play for the coach because he is a honest guy. That’s the difference”.

Zukile Kewuti of AmaZulu during the DStv Premiership 2020/21 match between Swallows and AmaZulu at the Dobsonville Stadium, Soweto on the 14 February 2021 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

He has aspirations of playing abroad but feels he wants to win every trophy here in South Africa before making a move overseas. Because when he returns, no one can say ‘what have you won here?’.

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