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Maluleke: My Dream Is To Play Abroad

Jomo Cosmos has a very good reputation of producing stars such as; Mark Fish, Helmen Mkhalele, Phil Masinga, and most recently Reneilwe Letsholonyane. We caught up with Wiseman Maluleke, one of Jomo Sono’s products, who is now plying his trade at Polokwane City. He shares with us how the big man, Jomo, has helped him with his career and what makes his current coach, Jozef Vukusic, so successful at Rise And Shine.

Banele Pikwa: Good day Wiseman, how are you?

Wiseman Maluleke: I’m good thanks. 

BP: This is your second season in the PSL, can you say you’ve settled now and how has it been playing in top flight?

WM: I can’t say I’ve settled now, because every player wants to play each and every week. I’m still trying to find my feet and hopefully soon I will find my feet and make sure that I get more game time. Playing in the top flight is quite challenging because it’s more of the hard work that you put in on and off the field. There are a lot of factors that are being involved so it’s kind of difficult but I’m grateful that each day I’m learning something. 

BP: What are some of the difficulties that you’ve come across?

WM: Breaking into the team has been the major challenge so far.

BP: Can you recall your first professional match? How was it and what did the coach say to you?

WM: I was still at Jomo Cosmos, it was when we got promoted. We were playing Maritzburg United away in KZN (Kwa-Zulu Natal). You know Jomo being the father figure, he said “just go and have fun there is no pressure” I played my first 90 minutes, it wasn’t as challenging as I thought. It was a dream come true and once I passed that white line it became much simpler because of the guidance of the big man, Jomo.

BP: How is it like to work with someone like Jomo Sono who has all the experience and reputation in producing stars?

WM: There are no words which can describe the man, and every day was a learning curve. It was a dream for me to work with him and I would really love to work with him again. He got the best out of me, and it’s not only on the field of play. He’s someone who guides you on how to take care of yourself, your family and how to manage finances. He was more of a father to us than just being a normal coach. 

BP: Polokwane City are a different team this season, and we saw your coach, Jozef Vukusic, getting Coach of the Month award. What’s his philosophy and how did he manage to get the team together so quickly? 

WM: He came with a different approach, but not too different, though. He just instilled confidence in the players and he is more of a ball playing coach. We play within the structure, so he came with the structure whereby we stay focused at the back and make sure we keep that attractive football going forward. At Polokwane, there are no big players, you can single out maybe one or two, but mostly, we’re at the same standard. Whenever a new coach comes, there are no egos and everyone is ready to bide in to the ideas of the new guy. 

BP: As a footballer you work with different coaches, some are local and some are international. Which ones are the best to work with between the two? If maybe you were to compare Jomo Sono and Vukusic.

WM: It won’t be fair for me to compare the two. But there is a slight difference with Vukusic it’s more like you have to play within the structure and you have to express yourself. Coach Jomo is more of a motivational speaker, he’s someone who pushes you, he makes you understand why you are playing football, he ensures that you will get something out of football. Those are the difference, but it will not be fair to compare the big man with Vukusic. 

BP: Mhmm, tell me more.

WM: Haha (laughs), there’s really nothing, it’s just that Vukusic is a European and prefers everything to be done according to the book. You know that European style which is based more of structure and organisation. With Jomo, he doesn’t really believe in using books. He’s more of using the God given talent and teaches us to express ourselves to the core. Those are the only difference really.

BP: You mentioned that at Polokwane, players are equal. If you were to pick a 6-a-side who would you go for?

WM: I’d have ‘Sticks’ Harold Ndlovu as the goalkeeper, because he’s vocal and he’s also my home boy but I’m not selecting him because of that, he’s very good. The second one would be our captain [Jabulani Maluleke] because he brings lots of creativity and express into the team so he will be the second one. The third one would be ‘Rama’ [Rodney Ramagalela] he has lots of pace and he’s a goal poacher. The fourth would be Sammy Seabi the midfielder who will bring stability into the team and I would also have Puleng Tlolane, he’s god given [has natural talent] and lastly it would be me because I cannot choose a team and not be part of it, haha.

BP: I know finishing in the top 8 is one of your targets, have there been any talks like that in the team or do you have even bigger targets? 

WM: If we compare from last season, we finished 12th, so obviously, we want to do better than that which is finishing in the top 8. The previous season, we made top six if I’m not mistaken, so this season the plan is to be within that touching distance between sixth and eighth. 

BP: Which team did you grow up supporting?

WM: Kaizer Chiefs

BP: Have you ever thought of a future within the PSL or maybe play for the club you grew up supporting? 

WM: Every football player has their own dreams. My biggest dream is to play abroad but if I fail to play abroad then I’d love to play for any of the big three. So when God gives me that opportunity, I’d make sure I grab it with both hands.

BP: What advice is the best that you ever got from a coach in pursing your dreams of playing abroad? 

WM: When I was still at Cosmos, coach Jomo said to me “do you remember where you come from? Do you want to see your parents suffering or you want to see them living a good life?” I said to him: I remember where I come from and I don’t want to see my parents suffer. He then said to me: ‘’if you want to change you have to stay true, stay focused, be disciplined, work hard and respect the game,” those are the words I got from the big man and that pushes me every day. 

BP: Outside football what do you do to relax?

WM: I mainly go to University of Limpopo, my brother is a lecturer there. So I just go there and watch him teach and I also get to study. We were a bit unfortunate when we lost our father when I was still very young in 1992. So when I’m not playing, I just go to him and study. I read a lot of books and I study a lot.

BP: Is that you preparing for life after football?

WM: Definitely! I have to make sure that I have something to fall on because football is unpredictable. 

BP: You didn’t mention what you are studying?

WM: I’m doing Business Studies.

BP: What are your plans for the festive break?

WM: I had this project of doing tournaments as part of giving back to the community. But now it became a norm that all football player have tournaments. So now, I’ve decided that in January I will take a different route and buy school shoes, uniforms, and stationary. I will just donate it to kids in my primary school, maybe about 30 students. When you host a tournament you should have things like prize money and after the event people go drink. So I’ve decided to buy uniform and invest in education, something that will motivate kids to work hard at school so that they will become something in their lives. That’s the initiative I’m taking, to donate shoes and school fees at Mashengani Primary School. 

BP: Interesting. What kind of background do you come from?

WM: I wouldn’t say we were rich or poor even though we lost our father at a young age. So we were raised by a single mother, she took care of us. I cannot say much but it was a testing environment, I give credit to my mother for defying all the odds and making sure that we always had food in our stomachs.

BP: You mentioned coach Jomo being a father figure, has that helped you in your career, having that father figure that you didn't have when you were growing up?

WM: It definitely helped, because sometimes when we encounter problems, you need someone who can definitely listen to you, and the big man showed that he can listen to me.

BP: Wiseman, thanks a lot for sharing this amazing story and good luck with your future endeavours.

WM: It’s okay, thanks.