Mokete Mogaila is UJ’s man! He is the heartbeat of their team and he makes them tick. You are welcome to call him UJ’s little magician, because he makes things happen. Maybe he is the missing piece of the puzzle that UJ have been looking for to eventually go all the way in this year Varsity Football tournament.
The 23-year-old carries the hopes of UJ’s Varsity Football season on his tiny shoulders.
Even head coach Mandla Zwane agrees that the youngster is a rare breed. The former Orlando Pirates star described his best player as a complete product.
Zwane said: “He is our trump card. He’s gifted, quick and good with the ball. Maybe he is what we have been missing all along. Who knows – maybe he will lead us to the title.”
UJ lost two cup finals in 2013 and 2016, but they are emerging as the surprise package in this year’s tournament and it’s largely to the youngster’s telling contribution.
Mogaila is the tournament’s top goal scorer with four goals from five matches. He has played 90 minutes in all five matches and he is often targeted by defenders of the opposition.
We are mid-way through the sixth edition of the tournament, but the deadly winger is already tipped as the potential player of the tournament because of his speed, skills and brain for football.
Mogaila is a shy footballer all the way from Ga-mashashane village outside Polokwane in Limpopo. It has become a norm for almost every footballer to study Sports Science, but Mogaila is one of a kind.
The modest footballer is studying Mathematical Science, majoring in computer science and applied maths. Mathematics? Yes, that’s right Mogaila is good with numbers and maths is a piece of cake to him.
He can hardly complete a sentence without talking numbers. You see Mogaila has a dream to work at a statistician office or an audit firm after he hangs up his boots, if his football career takes off.
He was able to produce good results in mathematics and science and he regards them as his favourite subjects.
“I’m good with numbers,” said Mogaila. ”I practice mathematics and science every chance that I get. Let’s just say I’m addicted to them. I’m also good with computers I like to explore them to get to understand and to know the machines better. I just like to try new things all the time.”
The striker is a person of few words. He is not the one to talk too much. Mogaila is a second born in a family of three siblings. His mother is a bread-winner and supports a family of six including their extended family.
“My mum is my hero she is a domestic worker, who supports her sister and her kids, grandchildren and us. I don’t know my father; I’ve never met him. I don’t even know what he looks like. What I know is that I was raised by a single parent and she goes out of her way to make sure that we have eaten. I don’t remember sleeping on an empty stomach.”
The tough upbringing and the situation at home pushes Mogaila to double his efforts on the pitch and in class. He travelled a lot in search of an opportunity to showcase his God-given talent. In 2010 he found himself in Mokopane where he tried his hand at a local academy. It has not been an easy road and in 2012 he found himself in Gauteng as he followed his dreams.
But it was at Mpumalanga Black Aces where he tried his hand and had a stint with the junior academy and the under-19’s in the SAB league. He played with SuperSport United and Bafana Bafana defender Aubrey Modiba in the same team. He regards Modiba as his favourite footballer. The pair got on well at the academy.
Sadly, Aces franchise was sold to Cape Town City FC in the Premier Soccer League and they were renamed Alexandra United plying their trade in the ABC Motsepe League. Mogaila rented a backroom in Alexandra Township commonly known as Gomora. He took a gap year to focus on his football in 2015 due to the lack of funds to study further. His mother didn’t have the means to take him to school.
“The situation at home pushes me to the limit. I don’t take football and education for granted – they are my life. Mum was a domestic worker in Alex and she supported me to work hard and impress the people at Alex United.”
Mogaila enrolled with UJ at the beginning of 2017 and obtained a bursary and now he is doing his second year. He featured in their 2017 campaign but things didn’t go according to plan. But this year he is on another level he is red hot and makes things happen for UJ. He is credited for their fairytale run.
Here’s how it started for him this season
“I had a dry run in my first year. But this year I have made a breakthrough. I’m showcasing my talent and Varsity Football is just the exposure that I need to get somewhere.”
Mokete is juggling his studies and football and he says that he has no time for games as he is focusing on the ultimate prize of making it professional and to graduate and make his mother proud.
“Football needs time and dedication. Studies need special attention. I have to attend classes, study and practice maths and science, and at the same time attend football training. The two need proper management and I spend sleepless nights to make up on what I miss out in my studies during football.”
UJ ended TUT’s unbeaten run in almost two years in the mini league and Mogaila scored the winning goal in that big game at Soweto Campus. But what people didn’t know is that he didn’t sleep the night before the match because he wrote a test, and yet he still delivered by scoring the winner.
“I didn’t sleep before that game. I was preparing for a test and I passed.”
Mogaila loves food, but he can only cook spaghetti and mince and he says that it’s quick and easy to make.
This year he has won three FNB Player of the Match awards, three Samsung Moments of Brilliance accolades and there is still more to come. But his biggest dream is to lead UJ to this year’s title.
Mogaila shares a room with strike partner Pogiso Mabote in camp. Mobote made an assist for the goal that he scored against UJ. The two are close friends who combine well on and off the field. They talk nonstop when in camp.
Nothing will make him happier than to win the trophy with UJ this year and he believes that nothing will stand in their way, after losing two cup finals in 2013 and 2016 under the guidance of coach Mandla Zwane.
What gives him the will to go on is that he knows that his family is always watching him when UJ’s games are televised and that when he gets home, he can rely on them not only to be his biggest supporters, but also his most honest critics.