Like the young players that are about to embark on an experience of a lifetime, competing in the under12 Nations Cup National Final, Itumeleng Khune was once a 12-year-old whose dream was to become a professional soccer player. And he believes he achieved this by following his principles of success; dedication, discipline and determination.
These principles he passed on to the 108 boys that will be representing their respective province at the national finals happening at Dobsonville Stadium on 15th September.
“Competing in the under12 Nations Cup, and possibly going on to represent your country at the world final in Spain next year is incredible; an opportunity that was not possible when I was 12. At this age boys want to have fun and there are plenty of distractions that can cause them to lose focus. I am encouraging all the players to believe in their dreams, develop healthy eating habits and if they live according to my principles they will succeed, not matter what it is they want to do.”
Khune comes from humble beginnings and started playing soccer in the dusty streets of Ventersdorp. “As a 7-year-old I was so passionate about soccer that it was all I ever did, which irritated my mother,” he said. “I realised I was talented when, at the age of 9, everyone wanted me in their team. I could fill in as a striker, defender and goalkeeper so I was versatile, which made me very popular. I would be asked to play for the under 15 and under 16 teams when I was only 9 years old. They would give me shirts that were far too large for me but that was not a concern.”
Encountering challenges along the way is part of life, said Khune. No matter what obstacles you confront just persevere, he told the boys. “When I turned 13 my father offered me a school uniform or soccer boots for my birthday and, of course, I chose soccer boots,” he said. “He then took me to a professional club for trials with thousands of other hopefuls and that is where my number 32 comes from, I was the 32nd player to be signed up.”
Remaining in a professional club takes hard work and dedication. “I would often put in extra training which sometimes resulted in missing my transport home and I would sleep in train and bus shelters, using my backpack as a pillow and I would go without meals.”
Khune was so determined to become a professional footballer that, on being told he was too short for goalkeeping, he proved everyone wrong by being able to jump extraordinarily high. “Playing in the midfield sometimes caused me to cramp so I asked to be moved to goalkeeping and I have never looked back.”
Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand, was Khune’s advice to the boys. “Eating properly and ensuring one gets in the correct nutrition helps achieve performance excellence. Take good nutrition out and you compromise both health and fitness.”
Khune lives his life according to his principles; dedication, discipline and determination. He still puts in extra training sessions that he does by himself and plans to continue to make a difference when his playing days are over. “I am not ready to retire and believe I still have many playing years ahead of me. But in the meantime, I have started visiting schools and communities talking the youth about the importance of living your dreams, setting goals, being dedicated, disciplined and determined. I also read a lot and have business plans that I have started working on. With regards to soccer; time will tell, who know, I might just become a coach.”
Entrance to the Dobsonville Stadium on 15th September is free. Games kick-off at 9.30 besides excellent soccer there will be target shooting, jumping castles, face painting and much more.