Q & A with Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Willard Katsande: Uniting Africa through football

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In light of recent xenophobic attacks that have been going on in SA, Goal caught up with Katsande to talk about how we can make Africa a better place

Goal: What impact has moving to South Africa had on your football career?

Katsande: Obviously I came to South Africa because I had been admiring how professional the South African league is, and when I was a teenager, I would say ‘if I’m to make it beyond borders, and go to South Africa, make the grade, I’d make a living out of it’. So, it was good to move to South Africa, because the standards are similar to that of Europe in terms of professionalism - how they treat football, how the fans analyze football and how everyone approaches everything regarding football. When you want to be the best, you need to play in those kinds of leagues.

Goal: Which South African experienced players inspired and developed your game?

Katsande:  Everyone used to admire Doctor Khumalo… even Neil Tovey, Eric Tinkler, Linda Buthelezi and Phil Masinga. I first started watching those players during the Bafana Bafana era when they won the Afcon, from then I started following their club careers. They used to play football with hunger.

Goal: Were you a fan of the PSL from childhood, or why did you want to move to SA?

Katsande: Yes, I was a fan. We used to go in people’s houses to ask for KickOff Magazines just to browse and keep up with what was happening in South Africa. We need to be honest, there was no technology like there is today whereby you can connect your DSTV and watch every PSL match. Back then, we used to read everything from magazines just to see how the teams were playing here in South Africa. So, yes we used to follow the PSL from back home.

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Goal: What do you think of the stadiums, soccer facilities and infrastructure here?

Katsande: I am quite impressed because I have been to different African countries with my national team and most of them with Kaizer Chiefs when we were playing Caf Champions League football. I think South Africa is one of the best in the entire world - it is close to Europe in terms of infrastructure. If you see the set up of European stadiums and before the kick off like Uefa Champions and Fifa World Cup games, I think South African football is headed in the right direction in terms of football and infrastructure. No offense to other countries, but I think South Africa is keeping up with technology. So, I’m really impressed.

Goal: How is the quality of life in South Africa for yourself, your family and children?

Katsande: The lifestyle in South Africa from the first day I arrived here, personally, it’s been good because I have never been involved in anything negative or experienced difficulties. It has been an incredible experience. I love it here in South Africa. So, I’ve enjoyed every minute that I have spent in this country.

Goal: Besides your home nation, are there any other countries in Africa you'd like to play club football in?

Katsande: Obviously, if opportunities comes, maybe you can consider them, but in terms of infrastructure, whatever is happening in America and England - football and technology-wise, here in South Africa it would happen tomorrow. So, in terms of lifestyle, I think I’d prefer to stay here in South Africa because they are almost on the same level with American and European countries.

Goal: What is your opinion of the xenophobic attacks in SA?

Katsande: It’s not a good thing to experience such things, because we’re Africans. We are brothers and sisters and we should help one another to take our African continent to another level. At one point I received a Whatsapp chain message from back home and Zimbabwean fans said; ‘If South Africans don’t want us in their country, they must chase Katsande so that we know they don’t want foreigners’. It was a funny message, but at the same time people are trying to show how frustrated they are. The truth is, even when you are walking around the streets, you never know what the next person is thinking. If you could see the majority of our brothers and sisters are using public transport to get to different work places. If they don’t get the transport, then they are not going to go to work and risk their lives. For me, I am not affected at the moment, but the next person is my brother or my sister. I don’t want to see anyone suffering. We’re brothers, and above all, we are human beings. God created to be who we are. So, why should we hurt one another? That’s not a good thing to do.

Goal: Have you or your family's been a victim of crime in SA?

Katsande: Not really, but my family was just scared for their lives. For me, I was once threatened by someone on social media, but we reported the incident to the police. It was after the Sundowns game when we won the league. I think we beat them 1-0 in Pretoria. I think it was a Sundowns fan and he was angry at the time. He threatened me on Twitter and said: ‘I will hunt you down, I know where you’re staying, I will get you’… those kind of things. So, one sometimes doesn’t know the kind of people who threaten you even if it's on social media. So, I didn’t want to take it for granted.

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Goal: Have you experienced discrimination on the account of being a foreigner in SA or anywhere else?

Katsande: No, besides that incident on social media. On my working environment as well, I have been enjoying with my teammates, even the management is treating me like everyone else. For me to say anything against them, I think it would be unfair because they’re not treating us like foreigners. So, I have never felt like a foreigner since arriving here in South Africa.

Goal: How welcome have you felt at the club and amongst all soccer followers in SA?

Katsande: The welcome was good. You know the fans here in South Africa are passionate. Irrespective of the teams they support, but you could see in terms of how they submit their comments – their comments might hurt you, but at the same they are showing passion. I think it’s a good thing to experience. It’s been fantastic for me to experience such because they are the ones who know what’s happening in football. So far so good for me; I’m enjoying my stay here in South Africa. I’m enjoying everything from the lifestyle to football – it’s really good. For me, it’s a dream come true. Football in South Africa is the most followed sport. Wherever you go, people talk about football. So, it shows that this country is all about football.

Goal: What message do you have for the South African public and soccer fans to unite all people in this continent?

Katsande: What I can say to all South Africans and football fans is to try and teach the person next to you how to build our African continent and how to love one another. I think if we can start loving one another regardless of where we come from, I think we will make Africa a better place.    

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Kaizer Chiefs, through their corporate communications manager Vina Maphosa, also took time to urge all football supporters and the entire country to stand together and fight against xenophobia.

Here is Amakhosi’s official statement exclusive to Goal: 

Our concern is shared with the rest of the South Africans. As a football club, we've got the responsibility as these are the communities that we serve. The majority of the people [affected] would obviously be our supporters. As you know, our slogan as Kaizer Chiefs is about ‘Love and Peace’. When something like this is happening, we get touched. If you recall, we exist in a global community and Africa is part of our strategy to make sure that we reach out to other African countries. However, it’s not only about us as a brand. This is the issue that’s touching all aspects of life – it’s about living together and it’s about caring for one another. Also if you check, during the recent Soweto Derby, we had as our theme #AfricaForLife and that showed that we’re concerned about the situation. We’re hosting African football clubs when we’re playing in Caf competitions. Currently, we also have players from Zimbabwe and we’ve got a player from Zambia. So, we’ve always had players from other African countries as a commitment to show that we exist within the African continent. So, that’s where we are. We are calling for peace. We’re urging the supporters and all South Africans to live together in peace and harmony. 

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