Home is where the heart is

PSL goalkeeper Tawfeeq Salie, right, goes through his paces with Aviwe Ndzwangu, at the Farouk Abrahams Goalkeeper Academy (FAGA), at the weekend.

Former Ajax Cape Town and Maritzburg United pro goalkeeper, Salie, 24, spent Sunday morning at the same field where he once learnt the fundamentals of being a goalkeeper – at Farouk Abrahams Goalkeeper and Life Skills Academy (FAGA), at the Wynberg St Johns Sports Ground.

FAGA head coach, Abrahams, said having Salie there raised the energy of the training session as all the goalkeepers were looking to learn a trick or two from the shot-stopper.

Playing in Maritzburg means that Salie is away from home for most of the year. He said that when he is back in Cape Town during the off season, he always spends some time at the academy.

“Besides being able to pass on my knowledge to the keepers coming through the ranks, it’s also a good time for me to do something to keep fit and polish up my own skills.

“The youngsters at the training session showed lots of work ethic. They just need to keep working hard and keep pushing. They say the harder you work the luckier you become.

“Of course, they mustn’t forget to have fun, but it’s important to take note on what the coaches are showing them,” he said.

Salie recalled his first session with Abrahams, and said he was hooked on the training methods since day one.

“The first time I trained at FAGA they were still training at Vygieskraal. And, in my favour, the venue changed to where it is now and I could just walk down to training. Back then, I just started learning the goalkeeper trade and stole with the eye wherever I could.

“I feel it’s important for goalkeepers to start young. Although, for me, I started a bit late because I only got into goalkeeping at the age of 13.

“Fortunately for me, luck was on my side and things fell into place quickly. But, I knew where it all started and told myself that I’ll always come back to pass on my knowledge,” he said.

A young Salie started his playing days at the age of seven, at Blue Bells AFC, at the Cape District Football Association (CDFA).

Despite not making any of the Western Province junior teams while growing up, he said he never gave up until one day he got a call-up to the South African under-20 world cup squad. Being part of that squad – at the age of 17 – meant that he played alongside players such as Sameegh Doutie, Andile Jali and Kermit Erasmus.

“I learnt how to trap and how to pass a ball at Blue Bells. At age 12, I joined FC Fortune and played there a couple of seasons before moving to Santos.

“Soon I got the opportunity to join Ajax and I grabbed it with both hands. I got a lucky break at Ajax because within a season they asked me to join in on a training session with the first team.

“At the time, Sean Robberts and André Petim were the only two goalkeepers in the first team, and Sean just got injured. The first team needed another goalkeeper and that’s when my professional career took off – at the age of 16.

“I remember making my pro debut. It was against Mamelodi Sundowns and we won 2-0,” he said.

A former Muhammadiya Primary and Wittebome High School pupil, Salie said meeting Moeneeb Josephs is what inspired him to become a goalkeeper.

He also spoke fondly about his time spent playing street soccer in Essex Road, Wynberg, and playing soccer tournaments in the park.

“I started playing as a striker because all goalkeepers believe they are strikers. But, one evening I met Moeneeb at the Wynberg St Johns junior tournament, and since that day I’d always go watch him play,” said Salie.

“At high school there were plenty of good soccer players. There was Cole Alexander and Shane Booysen who also went on to play pro. It was always difficult to concentrate on schoolwork because all I could think of was a soccer ball. We’d always be happy when a teacher doesn’t pitch up because that meant we got to play outside with the ball.

“At home in the street I was surrounded by more really good players. We’d play everyday in the street after school and have tournaments in Batts Road park.

“Many good footballers at some point came to play a game in this park. We’d even play home and away games at the different schools. We’d jump over the school fence to play on the tar mat at either Wittebome or Wynberg High,” he said.

Salie’s contract with Maritzburg United came to an end and he is hopeful of joining a club closer to home – with Cape Town City FC being an option and five National First Division (NFD) teams also on his radar.

Abrahams said Salie is a good role model for the current crop at FAGA and that it’s always great having the pro keepers give back to the young players.

“The energy on Sunday was fantastic. We have a policy at the academy that if you make it one day then you should come back and give some of your time back to the next generation of keepers coming through,” said Abrahams.

“The children were ecstatic and it was selfie heaven for them. Tawfeeq is proof of our legacy here at FAGA. I remember Tawfeeq came here as a small boy and it’s lovely to see how he has grown. He’s always had tremendous technique. And, it was a joy to watch his ball handling during the training session,” he said.