From the streets to the top

Shifaan Ryklief

Former Steenberg High School pupil, Nazier Jacobs, who grew up playing at Wesley United in the Cape District Football Association (CDFA), at the William Herbert Sports Ground, is a soccer gem.

No wonder PSL outfit Polokwane City was quick to sign him in June last year.

As a junior, his teammates would call out the name “Kaka” whenever young Jacobs had possession of the ball – in reference to Ricardo Kaka, the former Brazilian and Real Madrid star.

Jacobs, like Kaka, share the same calmness on the ball in the centre of the field. He had the same delightful touches, silky skills, an eye for a crafty through-pass, and his signature trick was to tap the ball and tip it over your head to beat you, says those who know him well.

Lavender Hill’s Kaka signed for Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Polokwane City in June last year.

“My first PSL game was against Bloemfontein Celtic in the opening game of the season. I didn’t expect to start because I was a new player, but the coach (Kosta Papic) had faith in me,” said Kaka.

“I felt disappointed with my performance in that game because I cost us a goal. The coach wanted us to play an attacking style of soccer, which meant we always had to move forward and make a forward pass whenever we had the ball.

“We ran these types of drills and plays during the pre-season.

“But, in the opening game, I made one mistake by passing the ball back, and Celtic punished us and scored. At half-time the coach substituted me and I watched the second half from the bench. My confidence went down immediately, and felt embarrassed because I’ve never been substituted at half-time before.

Despite that, he started me in the next game again,” he said.

Kaka said the Polokwane-based side intended on signing him two seasons ago, but he stayed with Milano United for one more season in the National First Division (NFD).

“When I was with Milano, we played Polokwane City in the PSL promotion playoffs in 2014, and that’s where they saw me. But, because Milano was so close to promotion that season, they wanted to win the league the following year and I stayed with the club.

“Things didn’t work out and at the end of the 2014/15 season they approached me again,” said Jacobs.

“I was there for the pre-season. It was a huge adjustment for me because I’ve played most of my soccer at Milano. Also, the football philosophy and the way PSL clubs do things is a big adjustment.

“Being the new player, I needed to prove myself to my team and get them to accept me. This is always hard for me because I’m not one to talk a lot. But, because of the good relationship I had with Cole Alexander, things went easier.

“Cole helped me settle in and guided me on and off the field. Gert Barends was the other Capetonian at the club, and the three of us developed a special bond,” he said.

A few games in and Alexander, from Mitchell’s Plain, was at full fitness and joined Kaka in the City midfield.

In September last year, Kaka made his first PSL appearance on Cape soil, when they played Ajax Cape Town, at the Cape Town Stadium.

“When Cole came into the line-up I was played out of my position and played inside left because he played the central role. I remember playing against Cole in tournaments as a junior, while he was at Ajax Cape Town.

“The match against Ajax was amazing because I got to play in front of my friends and family. As a youngster, I always wanted to play for Ajax and thought that one day I’d get my chance,” he said.

The youngest of four children, Kaka’s older brother Shaheed, and cousin Tasleem, encouraged him to join Wesley United – as they were both playing there.

He later joined Milano’s under-17 side to get more exposure to tournaments and test himself against tougher opposition.

“I always played soccer in the road with my friends and cousin. Then, one Saturday, my brother and cousin took me along to the field. I enjoyed being at the district every week, and as I grew older I knew that I wanted to become a professional player someday,” said Kaka.

“I also spent one season at Cape Town All Stars, in the second Division. And, during this time, we did well in the Nedbank Cup I got to play against Kaizer Chiefs.

“The following year I found my way back to Milano who had just won promotion to the NFD, and I was handed the captain’s armband to lead the team,” he said.

In February this year, Kaka was involved in a car accident and was rushed to hospital to undergo surgery. And, reports circulated in the media that the promising player was unable to play soccer any longer.

“After the accident the doctor ruled me out for the rest of the season. It happened just after the Chiefs game and I was doing well in the team. There were reports in the media of a spinal injury and that I wasn’t going to walk again, but that wasn’t the case.

“The doctor told me that it was a very bad accident but everything went well after the surgery. I had a cervical injury and only had problems with my neck movement. I was told I just needed rest and that I’ll soon be back on the soccer field,” he said.