'I didn’t want to participate in any rugby:' Nodada on turning down Bryan Habana's former school
Cape Town City’s ace midfielder Thabo Nodada has revealed that he had to make a tough decision‚ and stick by his guns against some initial resistance‚ choosing football over rugby at Johannesburg’s King Edward VII School (Kes).
Nodada (24)‚ from Ixopo south of Durban‚ had an opportunity to go to high school at Kes‚ one of South Africa's premier private schools‚ where he excelled as an agile‚ quick scrumhalf and flyhalf in the under-14 and U-15 A teams.
“It wasn’t a scholarship. I was a paid student‚” he said.
Also a talented footballer‚ at 16‚ in Grade 10‚ he succeeded in a trial to join the Johannesburg-based academy of Mpumalanga Black Aces‚ and had a tough call to make.
“When I went to Kes‚ I wasn’t thinking anything about football. When I left Ixopo to go to Joburg I didn’t go to boarding school – I stayed with my aunt and her husband‚” Nodada explained in an online press conference with the SA Football Journalists Association (Safja).
“I had left primary school and I was doing well at rugby‚ so when the opportunity came to go to Kes‚ and I knew what they were about and was going there for rugby.
“The big turnaround came when I was in Grade 10‚ in fourth term‚ where there would be a squad of about 40 from Grade 10 and 11s‚ who will be moving to 11 and 12‚ to compete for first team rugby. I was shortlisted‚ so I was‚ like‚ ‘OK‚ I’m going to gym‚ I’m going to build the weight up‚ and do everything’.
“I had attended Aces trials around that time at the end of the year too. And if I was selected I made a decision that no matter what Kes was going to say [he would join Aces’ academy]‚ and if needs be I was going to leave the school.”
Nodada triumphed over initial resistance to eventually earn recognition from Kes for his football achievements.
“It was such a difficult decision that when I told them I was going to be stopping rugby it was an issue‚” the player said.
“The first team rugby coach was my register teacher. And at one point I was late three days in a row. And out of nowhere he said‚ ‘You and your soccer – you must start going to another school’.
“And from there I got an understanding of the decision I had made. I had turned down a school that at one point was the best in the country‚ at one point had Bryan Habana. And I didn’t want to participate in any rugby.
“And I followed through. The only difficulty about it was that I still had to participate in schools sports.
“So in the second term I started playing hockey. And our [fourth] team I was in was so bad that at one time they made us play girls – and it was so embarrassing.
“But I stood up for it [my decision]. And when I was in matric and everything was accepted‚ I had already gotten my full colours [in soccer] in Grade 11‚ when normally you only do in Grade 12.
“So here a kid denies a school rugby‚ and then out of nowhere he’s given a full colours blazer for a sport they didn’t even recognise.
“And in matric I went and delivered a trophy as first team captain‚ to say ‘Thank you for all the services you gave me’. I learnt a lot of things at that school – manners and being a gentleman.
“It taught me to be a bit tough‚ to stand on my own‚ and to have altercations without getting emotional or baring grudges.”
Explaining the decision he had made Nodada said‚ when the opportunity arose for professional football‚ he could not turn it down.
“When an opportunity came to be under an academy‚ it was a no-brainer man. Being given a chance to succeed or fail on my own accord‚ I was never going to let it go.”