I was born a goalkeeper

SHIFAAN RYKLIEF

The Bidvest Wits shot-stopper went from the youngster who played soccer in the streets of Mitchell’s Plain, with metal-tip shoes that his grandfather Achmad made for him – to becoming one of the best goalkeepers to don the Bafana Bafana soccer jersey.

A goalkeeper’s role is known to be the toughest position on the soccer field. Not only must he guard the goals, but also lead the team from the back, have good instincts, and leave no room for mistakes.

At the age of 15 – while walking to his first training session with Mitchell’s Plain United – a young Josephs was called into action and needed to use his instincts and make the correct decision on whether to join Cape Town Spurs or Mitchell’s Plain United.

That afternoon, Mitchell’s Plain United was preparing to sign Josephs. But, upon entering the gates to the training facility, he assessed the situation and dived the other way to join Spurs – who later merged with Seven Stars FC to form Ajax Cape Town.

Josephs joined up with FAGA after he played for Abrahams in the Western Province under-20 team as a 16 year old.

Abrahams said the young keepers always enjoy having Josephs at training, and that he raises the energy levels of the sessions.

“After playing in the province team for coach Farouk, I went to the academy to polish up my skills. Coach helped me on my path to where I am today,” said Josephs.

“I feel that it’s important for me and other goalkeepers who came through FAGA to stay in touch and contribute in whatever way we can. Most of the top keepers in Cape Town came through coach’s hands.

“Goalkeeping is a specialised position and you have to get specialised training for it. You don’t just become a goalkeeper, you are born a goalkeeper,” he said.

Josephs said he first put on the number-one jersey as a junior for Westdale FC.

He said he’s always been goalkeeper, but, like all goalkeepers, he also thought he was the best striker in his team.

The shot-stopper come from a long line of goalkeepers in his family, and said once he found his calling, he never looked back.

“I was seven years old when I started playing. The following year the club joined with Westridge Rovers to form Westridge FC.

“From the age of 10 and upward I was always part of the provincial set-up. I remember how much fun it was travelling with the bus to Durban to play in tournaments,” said Josephs.

“My grandfather is the one who saw my talent early on and he guided me as a keeper. He was a goalkeeper for Baltic Rangers and my uncles were all goalkeepers.

“One afternoon he took me to Mnandi Beach to kick some ball. There were goalposts and he told me to get in the poles.

“He started taking a couple of shots and saw something in me. On our way home, he said this is what I was meant to do,” said Josephs.

While learning the trade, Josephs looked up to pro goalkeeper, Wayne Roberts, who played for Cape Town Spurs.

It wasn’t long before the two shared the same dressing room at Spurs.

“Wayne was my idol and I always used to watch him. It was always great when they played charity matches in Westridge because then I’d run from my home all the way to the field to catch a glimpse of him.

“When I joined Spurs, that was the best time of my life because I got to sit next to him in the changing room and train with him,” said Josephs.

“I was at Spurs for four seasons before we became Ajax Cape Town. Then, I was with Ajax for 10 years, and that’s where I enjoyed my football career the most because of the learning experience.

“I remember in my second game they sent me a picture after I turned 16. We played against Vaal Pro’s at the Green Point Stadium. The match went to penalties and they beat us 10-9,” he said.

Josephs went on to become a formidable penalty stopper and always shined when the occasion arouse.

“It’s just by chance that I became good in penalty shootouts. It’s not something that you can practise.

“A goalkeeper is a character, each one of us has our own special character. Some of us are loud mouths, mad or just plain crazy.

“And, to take that antics and use it to your advantage on the field is just an art. As the years go by, you learn how to use this to your advantage and most goalkeepers will pick that up as well,” he said.

A former Duneside Primary and Rocklands High School pupil, Josephs said he never did too well at academics and playing inter-classroom soccer tournaments is what he most looked forward to while getting ready for school.

“There were a lot of quality footballers who were at school with me. My classmate Sergio Lategaan was really talented, and is one of the best left-footed players I’ve ever seen.

“After John Comitis signed me, we drove to Sergio’s house because John wanted to sign him as well. When we got to his place, his mother welcomed us in and she said he wasn’t home. But, she quietly signaled to me that Sergio was actually upstairs in his room.

“When I got to his room, I found him hiding underneath his bed because he didn’t want to sign a pro contract,” Josephs joked.

“He wanted to finish school and that’s what he did. It was funny at the time because I came with the boss to his house and he just told me from underneath the bed that he didn’t want to sign. He went on to finish school, found a job, got married and started a family – the old school way.

“Fortunately for me, I chose to sign because I never did well at school, and there was no chance I was going to study after school. In Grade 10, I was doing all my subjects in one book, so that should tell you everything,” he said.

As with most children who play soccer in the street, takkies is always an issue. It was no different for Josephs who soon became known in his area for his steel-tipped shoes.

“Playing street soccer is a given. I always used to kick my takkies broken and one day my grandfather decided to make me a pair of shoes at work. He put steel tips in the front of my shoes and that’s how I used to play in the street and in the park.

“But after I moved to Spurs, I’d play with a new pair of boots or takkies all the time,” he said.

Throughout his illustrious career, he was awarded many individual trophies and won various medals. But, in all this, he said signing his first pro contract stands out above the rest.

“Growing up I never gave any thought on what I wanted to become. Signing that contract assured me that I was on a path whereby I could create something -and it all worked out.

“I remember the day I signed. I was actually walking to training for Mitchell’s Plain United who was going to sign me for R200. When I got to the training grounds, I saw all the players and coaches standing there and then this Ford Sierra pulled up.

“Inside was a short Portuguese guy calling me, telling me to get in the car. I was like ‘not a chance’ because I had no idea who he was. So, he got out of the car, off his puffy cushion and told me he was there to pick me up to see John Comitis.

“I got in and went with to John’s place where I signed for R500, in 1996,” he said.

Abrahams said when he first coached Josephs, he was very shy and would be hard on himself whenever he made a mistake.

“”Whenever Moeneeb made a mistake then he’d want me to take him off, and I’d always give him a good scolding,” said Abrahams.

“Moeneeb is a character, always witty and it’s great having him around. He’s always willing to put in more than just his presence,”

“I remember one game for WP he made a mistake in the first half, and at half-time he wanted to come off. I encouraged him to lift his head and keep playing. He saved a penalty in the second half and went on to be the man of the match,” he said.