Bidvest Wits captain Hlatshwayo convinced me not to quit football, says Orlando Pirates winger Memela

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Bucs recently extended Memela's contract as the 30-year-old continues to reap the rewards of his patience

Orlando Pirates midfielder Luvuyo Memela says Bidvest Wits captain Thulani Hlatshwayo convinced him to continue playing football when his career remained stagnant.

Memela, who played with Hlatshwayo in the Ajax Cape Town reserve team, endured the long, bumpy road he took to eventually play for Premier Soccer League (PSL) heavyweights, Pirates.

“I didn’t quit because I saw my peers succeeding and that motivated me to also be at their level," Memela told The Star.

"Tyson was my biggest source of motivation. He kept encouraging me and told me to not give up because he believed 'my time will come'. His words and how his career took off motivated me. I was at Ajax when the likes of Thulani Serero and George Maluleka came there and their careers took off. I played with the likes of Cole Alexander, Clayton Daniels, Daylon Claasen and Sameehg Doutie," he continued.

"Seeing them grow while my career remained stagnant helped me because I pushed even harder as I believed I could also make it at the highest level. But during the dark times I thought maybe this wasn’t meant for me, that I should quit and focus on school like my mother was telling me," the left-footed player added.

After leaving Ajax, Memela joined Hanover Park, who were campaigning in the National First Division (NFD), before joining Chippa United. He then moved to amateur side, Cape Town All Stars whom he helped gain promotion to the NFD. Pirates snapped up Memela from All Stars in 2015.

“I know that it’s up to me to play regularly at Pirates. For me to do that I need to ensure that I give my all whenever I am given a chance, no matter how small that chance is. I know where I come from and I don’t want to go back there. Even if we lose, I must leave the field knowing that I gave it my all and people who are watching must say that we can’t fault him on anything," he added.

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The attacker and his Bucs team-mates will take on Mamelodi Sundowns in a league game at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Last season, Sundowns thumped Pirates 6-0 at the same venue in a league clash.

“We aren’t even thinking about that match. I am not thinking about that match because that’s in the past. What I know is that there is a huge difference between this team and the one that lost 6-0. This team plays football. There is direction. We know what we are doing. The bond is stronger. We fight for one another and we cover for one another. I know that when (Innocent) Maela goes forward I must cover for him. We are stronger mentally and are driven," Memela explained.

"It’s not like we were poor that day. We had chances and we even hit the post. If we had scored early things would have been different. We will go into this match confident after not only winning our first match of the year but also scoring three goals," he concluded.

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