Ditlhokwe eyes Matsatsantsa starting berth
The latest local export looking to make it big in South Africa, 21-year-old Thatayaone Ditlhokwe is confident he can become a regular starter with Supersport United.
Having left Township Rollers for the Pretoria-based Premier Soccer League (PSL) outfit in December, the young defender – like many of his countrymen – endured a difficult start to life south of the border.
Confined to the substitute’s bench for his first six games at the club, in which he played just a handful of minutes, Ditlhokwe was left a frustrated figure, desperate to prove himself.
He finally got his chance on Saturday 29 February.
Three consecutive 1-0 losses convinced Matsatsantsa coach Kaitano Tembo to include the Gulubane native in his starting line-up against Bidvest Wits.
It was an opportunity the former Nico United and Gaborone United starlet grabbed with both feet.
“It was a nice experience to officially start a game. I was not under any pressure because the coach told me to relax and play football and that helped a lot,” the versatile centre back told Voice Sport in an exclusive interview this week.
Supersport ran out 2-0 winners, with Ditlhokwe putting in an assured performance, forging an impressive partnership with the veteran Clayton Daniels at the heart of the Swanky Boys’ defence.
Ditlhokwe’s solid showing was enough to see him retain his place in the starting XI for Supersport’s next match, away against Highlands Park a week later.
“That was the game when I really impressed. I have paired up with Daniels again and guided the team to a 2-0 win, which meant that our pairing was consistent thus far.”
Unfortunately, Ditlhokwe was unable to build on this momentum and fully establish himself as the league was then stopped due to Covid-19.
Three months later and Ditlhokwe is kicking his heel in Botswana, hungry to resume his career and get playing again as Supersport looks to launch an unlikely late title bid.
Currently third in the league, eight points below table-topping Kaizer Chiefs who have played two games less, with just six matches remaining, it would take something special for Supersport to claim their fourth PSL trophy.
“I am still in the country awaiting to return to South Africa to resume training with the rest of the team. The club and I are in good understanding as the borders have to open first,” he explained.
Once he does return, the youngster faces the daunting task of going up against seasoned internationals such as Bongani Khumalo, Onismor Bhasera and Daniels for a spot in Supersport’s defence.
“I am well aware of the competition that I face,” is his simple, determined response.
Indeed, the unassuming star has only good things to say about the Supersport dressing room.
“I had a warm welcome from all my teammates as they helped to adapt to the culture of the team.”
Ditlhokwe’s growth in the game has not gone unnoticed on the national stage and, despite turning 21 just two months earlier, he was handed the captain’s armband for the Zebras’ all-important AFCON home qualifier with Algeria in November.
“I never saw the captain’s appointment at the national team coming. It was a huge surprise and I would like to thank God, who I believe is the one who did it. It is not easy to be a leader at the national team because there are so many experienced stars but I have to do my part and they listen as they are professionals,” the impressive youth told Voice Sport.
Although they lost the game 1-0, Ditlhokwe looks set for a winning career.