Tue 17 Oct by Nick Said
One of the key cogs in the surprise start by Baroka FC to the new Premier Soccer League season has been attacking midfielder Gift Motupa, a player of rich potential who has waited a long time for the chance to shine in the big-time.The 23-year-old has already scored four goals this season, all in vital away wins against Chippa United (two), Bloemfontein Celtic and Kaizer Chiefs, and has been among the form players of the campaign so far.He is no stranger to South African football fans having helped Baroka FC rise up the football pyramid to the elite league, before spending two mediocre seasons at Orlando Pirates where he was unable to take the next step in his career.Motupa is also a regular among South Africa’s African Nations Championship qualification squad, as well as the team that participated at the COSAFA Castle Cup, and has five goals in nine caps to date.And now with the opportunity for a regular run in the PSL, he is showing his quality repaying the faith Baroka showed in bringing him back to the club at the start of the season, initially on loan.Motupa was a 16-year-old when Baroka, then a third-tier side, stunned the country with a 2-1 victory over Chiefs in the Nedbank Cup quarterfinals in 2011. It was the greatest upset in South African knockout history until two years later when Orlando Pirates were thumped 4-1 by another third-tier side, Maluti FET College.The teenager did not make it off the bench that day, but revelled in the experience and set his sights on a career in the professional ranks.“I am from a family of soccer loving people. My father and my brother played soccer in their days and they could not make it far,” Motupa told the Polokwane Observer.“Those were exciting times. I never thought that a team from rural Ga-Mphahlele could ever beat teams like Chiefs and [Moroka] Swallows in a big tournament such as the Nedbank Cup.
“That is an experience that I will cherish forever because it built me and also encouraged me to be more competitive.“Sometimes we are scared of the profile of the team and we forget that it is 11 against 11 in the field of play. I believe once we dispel that mentality, plenty of small teams can upset big teams.”
Motupa’s journey to the top actually started in rural Limpopo when he started playing for Manchester United in Thokwangeng Village at the age of 13.It was there that he was spotted by Baroka owner Khurishi Mphahlele and signed for the club.“I vividly remember the day. We had just finished playing and Mphahlele approached me and said he would like to see me playing for his team. The team was still in the third division by then. I was nervous, but after a couple of training sessions and matches I gelled well with all the players and we became a unit.”He will be key again for Baroka when they take on in-form Lamontville Golden Arrows in a home league clash on Wednesday and his recent goals rush a factor for Soccer 6 punters to consider when making their selection for that fixture.