Getting to play Varsity football is a big dream for many an aspiring star as it is a rare opportunity to showcase their talent on television.
There is, however, more at stake. First and foremost, for the players, it is about putting their bodies on the line for the sake of their university’s honour. The bragging rights to being the best team counts for a lot. More so when you play varsity sport.
The other reality is that many players consider Varsity Football as a way to prolong their careers. It takes one brilliant goal, a match-winning save or moment of tactical brilliance to change a player’s life. Often it leads to being offered a professional contract.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to all Varsity tournaments being put on ice in 2020. It is a big blow to the aspirations of all turning 25 this year. 25 is the cutoff age limit in Varsity Sport tournaments.
Tuks’ Lebohang Montueli fully understands the need of having an age limit in student tournaments, but still, he hopes that the organisers will consider making an exception for next year.
“The cancellation of the Varsity [Football] tournament has been an emotional blow to most of us. No one is questioning as to why the decision was made. It needed to be done to save lives which is important,” the Tuks player said.
Montueli could be considered as one of the veterans of Varsity Football. This year would have been the fourth year that he would be playing for Tuks. He was part of the Tuks team that won the tournament in 2017.
He considers himself lucky to still be eligible to play next year [he only turned 24 this year] but truly feels for those players whose Varsity Football careers have come to an abrupt end.
DID YOU KNOW? Two of Montueli’s 2019 Tuks teammates turn 25 this year, Jurgen Booysen and Katlego Motlhatsang
“I know of many players who were hoping to give it their all for one last time in the hope of maybe securing a professional contract. Through no fault of theirs, they are not going to have that opportunity.
“It got me thinking. Would it not be fair if everyone who would have played now would still be eligible in 2021 even if they are older than 25? Players should however still be bonafide students. It could be a once-off exception.”
Montueli justified his reasoning by saying that in South African football players tend to peak later than what the norm is in international football.
“In Europe, it is not strange for 19- to 20-year-old players signing with top professional clubs as they are already playing to the best of their ability. Somehow in South Africa players often only start to excel when they are older.
“The problem is that the older you get, the more difficult it gets to be noticed. That is why playing Varsity Football is essential. For many, it is the last chance to impress professional decision makers.
“We are about to lose quite a number of talented players forever as things stand at the moment. Can South Africa football afford to allow that to happen,” the Tuks honours student in theology asked?
PLAYER PROFILE Lebohang Montueli
Full name: Lebohang Patrick Montueli
Born: 30/3/1996 in Senekal
Varsity Football experience: 2018-19
Studying: Theology (4th Year)
Article courtesy Wilhelm de Swardt/TuksSport Media