Katsande could have been lost to vending Willard Katsande
Willard Katsande

Willard Katsande

Faith Mutema Sports Reporter

WARRIORS skipper Willard Katsande may have worked his way into becoming a household name in the South African Premiership where he stars for Kaizer Chiefs but it has emerged the midfielder’s talents could have been lost to street vending in Mutare.In a recent interview with top-selling South African soccer magazine Kick-Off, Katsande revealed that his talents could have gone down the drain had he remained in the trenches of vending.

“What I have gone through in my life has taught me to be grateful for every opportunity I get,” he says.

“When I lost my father at nine, life took a sharp turn downwards for me such that my mother, who was not educated, could not even afford to buy us a loaf of bread.

“I became a vendor, herd boy and field farmer in the rural areas to make ends meet and sometimes leave things I would be selling on the street to attend football training and I am fortunate to be where I am today.”

The Warriors skipper was called up for national duty to represent Zimbabwe in 2010, after his successful run with the Gunners.

He then made his debut for Ajax Cape Town on December 12 2010.

“I don’t want to return to the poverty I had and struggle the way I did again, so I worked extra hard with the talent I had and in time it landed me greater opportunities”.

Katsande acknowledged that he was a virtual unknown in Johannesburg when he arrived to join Chiefs.

“I arrived here as a nobody with a lot to prove because the previous season I had not played much at Ajax Cape Town.

“I was even called derogatory names by some people, which I have since realised is normal because of the weight of this brand called Kaizer Chiefs. The expectation here is always that clubs should sign high-profile players and whenever they sign low-profile players like was the case with me, it raises eyebrows.

“The biggest challenge for me was that my first game was against Orlando Pirates in the MTN 8 final, which we lost. I came on a substitute and it was a very difficult game for me.”

Interestingly, Katsande said his move to Chiefs was somewhat fortuitous.

“It was very funny – Chiefs (officials) came to Zimbabwe during the off-season to watch Lincoln Zvasiya in the national team as he had already been to Naturena for trials. I had actually left my base in Cape Town at the end of my first season there with the new coach (Maarten Stekelenburg) having already told me that I was not in his plans for the new season because he didn’t want to waste a foreigner’s space on me.

“Ajax’s plan was to loan me to Vasco da Gama in the National First Division. I then performed very well in that national team game (Zimbabwe against Zambia) and luckily Chiefs were watching.”

It was then that contract talks were immediately opened.

“Chiefs then contacted my agent right away and told him they wanted my services. When my agent first told me about Chiefs’ interest I thought he was just kidding.

“After the game I happened to be on the same flight with Bobby (Motaung) and he told me right away ‘Papa we need to bring to you to Jozi for work purposes’.

“Still I didn’t believe him and thought he was just flattering me since I had a good game.

“The next day when I arrived at my base in Cape Town they told me I had to pack my bags because I was leaving.”

Katsande also credited former Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter, who is now with SuperSport United, for assisting him.

“I wouldn’t have done it if it was not for Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter who came in just after the Christmas break.

“He explained to me how he needed me to play, defended me the time I had multiple yellow cards and nobody was giving me a chance and for me every day was a learning day.

“Gradually I began to understand how I need to apply myself and it helped me a lot to have someone like him in terms of understanding my role and up to date I still enjoy football because of Baxter,” said Katsande.

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