Asavela Mbekile - Fact File

Asavela Mbekile is one of those underrated players who does all the dirty work in the midfield and would rather let the attacking midfielders and strikers grab all the headlines. The man from Cofimvaba signed for Moroka Swallows at the beginning of the season from Chippa United and has been a revelation for Zeca Marques’ side, missing only one game so far due to suspension. Sabie Chili had a chat with him, where he talks about his journey to the top and the adjustment from PSL strugglers to Soweto giants.

Personal Information
Full Name: Asavela Shakespear Mbekile
Date Of Birth: 1 November 1986
Place of birth: Cofimvaba, Eastern Cape
Nickname: Shoes

Position: Midfielder
Jersey no: 4

Current Club: Moroka Swallows
Previous Clubs: 
Central FC, Trinitarians FC (amateur)
Ajax Cape Town Juniors
FC Kapstadt
Ikapa Sporting
Milano United
FC Cape Town
Chippa United
Cape Town All Stars

You left the remote village of KuMagwala in Cofimvaba and set off on a journey to Cape Town. You played for six teams in the NFD and only broke through to the PSL at the age of 26. When times were hard, did you ever think of giving up? 
Ja, I had a long journey.  Actually, just before I signed for Chippa Utd in the second half of last season, I had told myself that I was quitting football. I had even applied to Walter Sisulu University. I had initially applied at their East London campus and wanted to change to the Queenstown campus, but when I was coming back from registration when I got a call from Siviwe “Chippa” Mpengesi, asking me to come over there. Look, what happened at Cape Town All Stars is what made me want to retire from the game, especially because I also picked up an injury during my time at FC Cape Town and they couldn`t help me. I had to do everything on my own. It was tough. Those are some of the things that really affected me.

What happened at Cape Town All Stars? 
They just said I was no longer needed. Maybe they were saying they had better players than me. I don`t know. But they said they didn’t need me. I signed for them in August and they broke the news to me in December. Mind you, I had played in all the games for them. That`s football for you. 

You stayed at Ajax Cape Town for three months after passing a trial, but never got given a contract.
I don`t know what happened there. At one stage they called me, saying that they wanted me to bring my stuff, and then next thing they said they no longer wanted me. How do you explain that? It was very confusing, but I had to move on and look elsewhere. When Siviwe Mpengesi called me, I couldn`t believe it at first, but then God is for us all. I was so ecstatic.  I was playing for Milano United when Chippa got promoted to the First Division and they were interested in my services, but I chose to play for FC Cape Town, so I felt this was an opportunity that I had to take.

You have come in at Swallows and fit in like a hand in a glove. How do you feel about your progress so far? 
No, it`s going well and what has made things easier is that the guys have made me feel welcome. I adapted easily to everything and even the coach says I`m one of the best in the defensive midfield position. It gives you confidence as a player to hear your coach say something like that. I combine very well with Giorgi Nergadze because we always play together at training. That`s where it starts.

But doesn`t having two defensive midfielders limit the team in terms of attack? 
If you have two defensive midfielders, it allows those that are in front of us, like the left winger, right winger, the number 10 and the strikers, to do their job without worrying about what`s happening behind them. Their only focus is on creating and scoring goals. Our job is to win the ball, give it to them and make sure that the team is organized defensively. As you can see, we have been scoring goals and that means the system is working. 

What is the difference between playing for a team that`s fighting for their life in the PSL and a Soweto giant that`s fighting for honours? 
The difference is that Swallows is a big team and they have players who have been in the game for a long time and are very experienced. They work really hard, in a different way to players who have never played in the PSL before. Players who have never played in the PSL before think they have made it when they get to this level. So now you get to Swallows and you have Siyabonga Nomvethe, Lefa Tsutsulupa and Nergazde, players who have been in this game for a long time, and that pushes you to work. The way these guys push themselves makes you realize that nothing comes easy in life. I mean, they have achieved so much in the game but they are still willing to do the work.

Thanks a lot for your time.